When Amelia Carr taught her kindergarten students to recognize words on sight, she received a little help from her siblings. In a YouTube video, the trio sing Sister Sledge’s’ 70s anthem We are a family, with Carr demonstrating on a whiteboard how to write the word “we”.
For her ingenuity, passion and talent for making learning fun, the University of Mary Washington alumnus was recently named the 2021 Outstanding New Teacher of Fairfax County Public Schools.
In her classroom at Bucknell Elementary, a Title I school near her hometown of Alexandria, Va., Carr puts into practice the lessons she learned at UMW. Navigating a global pandemic and teaching online was a challenge, she said, but also a factor of confidence and creativity. âI wanted to make my teaching as engaging as possible,â she said of virtual learning, which lasted until the end of February for most of her students.
Carr, who has dreamed of becoming a teacher all her life, said she was “immediately drawn to Mary Washington” because it was a small school in the state with a strong College of Education (COE ). She graduated with a BA in English with a major in Creative Writing and a Minor in Social Justice in 2019, and a student has taught in Stafford County Public Schools. Last year, she obtained a master’s degree in elementary education from UMW.
In Mary Washington, Carr discovered “wonderful teacher mentors,” like Associate Professor John Broome, who taught her culturally relevant teaching practices that helped her make her classroom more inclusive. Its students greet each other in their mother tongue, discover their respective cultures and read books representative of their various origins. They also had a say in shaping the rules and standards of the class.
Assistant Professor Melissa Wells said Carr’s dedication to equity in education was evident even as an undergraduate student. âShe stands up for all students and families as valued members of her classroom learning community. Watching her blossom in her first year of teaching was a joy. “Amelia also cares about the emotional development of her students and their academic growth,” Fairfax County Public Schools said in a statement. “She understands that children learn best when they feel welcomed, loved and represented.”
From Wells, Carr learned practices integrating the arts which she incorporated into her teaching. She used the puppet theater to help her kindergarten students learn to read, play the tambourine so that she could count beats, and sing songs about life cycles and sustainability. She read books like The grasshopper and the ant and The tree that gives to help students learn to think critically and ask questions. She has also planned online field trips with Google Earth and organized virtual lunches and playgroups to promote socialization.
Additionally, Carr invited virtual speakers, including a vet, entomologist, high school football coach, former NFL player, and his students’ parents, to talk about their careers. âAn important part of the kindergarten curriculum is learning about the people who help our community run,â she said.
Her students have moved on to grade one, but that doesn’t mean Carr will stop teaching over the summer. Through the Bridge to K program at Fairfax schools, she will help new kindergarteners prepare for the coming year, and she plans to spend some of her free time tutoring children before going to school. go back to class.
âNothing beats the feeling of seeing your students turn on their light bulbs,â she said. âBeing a teacher is the most humiliating and rewarding job. “