Neal Cronkite is exactly the kind of learner he tries to cultivate among his students: self-directed and always looking to improve. A fifth-grade science and math teacher at Washington Woods Middle School, Cronkite attends technology and STEM conferences, shares best practices with colleagues, and incorporates them into his classroom. He asks administrators to observe him in action and makes changes based on the feedback he receives. Always seeking better ways to monitor students’ learning and encourage them to own their milestones, Cronkite has experimented with metacognitive reflections and self-assessments that hang on the walls. Students in his intervention classes show steady growth on six-week pre- and post-assessments.
Cronkite has unique ways of reaching students and building lasting relationships, taking on the persona of a scientist and playing his guitar during class to build enthusiasm. Though he is not an English Language Arts teacher, Cronkite has coached “Battle of the Books” teams at the library. He leads the school’s large Stampede Running Club and rewards students with special lunches for leadership and life skills, including responsibility, teamwork, respect, empathy and determination. Cronkite doesn’t shout, preferring to let students develop self-awareness and realize the benefits of positive behavior and participation, as well as the consequences if they don’t follow through. Cronkite was heavily involved in “Spread the Word to End the Word,” a campaign to eliminate derogatory language aimed at students in Washington Woods’ cognitively impaired classroom. Parents request Cronkite for their children, and students in advanced grades often check in with him and cite his influence on their successes.
Technology plays a big part in Cronkite’s classroom. He wrote a successful grant to install a large Smart Board; students learn basic programming, use the Classroom Dojo app, and interact with each other via Google Classroom. A member of the Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning, Cronkite helps his colleagues incorporate technology in their classrooms as well. He serves on the building leadership and district teacher leader teams, participates in the district’s math professional learning community, and mentors new teachers.
Cronkite earned a bachelor’s in elementary education in 2006 from Western Michigan University and a master’s in K-12 administration in 2012 from Michigan State University.
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