Michelle Fouts is full of creative ideas to support literacy. Students settle down with books in the reading corners and tents in her second-grade classroom at Bryant Elementary in Kearney, Nebraska. All students get a new book on their birthday to add to their home libraries. Events like Bryant’s Tournament of Books and family Reading Rallies keep everyone excited about reading. Fouts invites students to come to school early for Books and Braids, where they read while having their hair combed or braided. She incorporates literacy best practices and eagerly shares them with colleagues, including the Balanced Literacy Approach and Reading and Writing Workshops. Fouts has presented at a Nebraska state conference about the importance of literacy in the early grades, brought a renowned literacy expert to Bryant to work with teachers, and co-founded Hooked on Books ABC, a consulting firm focused on sharing early literacy strategies with other educators.
Fouts is always looking for new ways to approach lessons so students stay energized and engaged. She loves classroom transformations, decorating students’ desks like all-terrain vehicles on Dinosaur Day. When funding dried up for field trip transportation, Fouts found interesting locations within walking distance and led the class into the community to explore on foot. She helped create Bryant’s K-2 STEM program and oversees STEM learning for all students K-5. When Fouts noticed that the school’s writing scores were low, she piloted Write Now Right Now, a well-respected elementary writing program that is now used throughout the building.
A go-to resource for anything related to student learning, Fouts serves as grade level and content coordinator for the district. She serves on the curriculum council, leads the Positive Behavior Supports team and directs the district’s special education summer school. The week before the school year starts, Fouts teaches Burst Into First Grade, an on-ramp program for at-risk students. Concerned about the social emotional learning toll of the school closures, Fouts now opens each day with a morning meeting where students take turns sharing their thoughts and feelings. Her goal: making sure children feel at home and know their classroom family is a safe space.
Fouts earned a bachelor’s in elementary, early childhood and special education in 2009 and a master’s in curriculum and instruction in 2012 from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
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