Transforming Education One Classroom at a Time
When the lights go down in Debbie Hazelwood’s fourth grade classroom at Tibbals Elementary School in Wylie, a glow-in-the-dark Jenga set is illuminated by black lights and the students are ready to learn about math and science. This, along with “pizza fractions,” life-sized Candyland, and a block sand castle building are just a few ways Hazelwood designed dynamic lessons through classroom transformations.
“If you want students to give you uncommon effort and attitude, provide them with uncommon experiences,” said Hazelwood. “These magical moments connect and empower students to be persistent and it allows them to love coming to school.”
Hazelwood always liked working with kids and remembers her third grade teacher who inspired her to follow the same path. Her teacher did an incredible job making the students feel seen, important, and that they mattered. Hazelwood remained in touch with her mentor throughout her educational journey, even doing her required observations with her.
Now, more than 15 years after graduating from Stephen F. Austin State University, she still loves what she does. Through Wylie ISD, she’s been given the freedom to creatively teach the way her students learn best. Through the Wylie ISD Education Foundation, she’s been given the opportunity to make those ideas come to life in innovative and unique ways.
A recurring grant winner, Hazelwood has received several Foundation grants, the latest about student engagement – Classroom transformation. Through these funds, students ignite their knowledge of content through energy, passion, creativity, and personal interests.
Under the soft glow of black lights, her students dissect word problems in an operating room, review math concepts at a carnival, or go on a camping trip. Several of these students are trying new things, like turning a tent into a place to work through classroom curriculum. Through all of this fun, many students don’t even realize they are learning.
“You’re not only engaging the students, but you’re giving kids an opportunity to experience something that they may not have experienced before in their own personal life,” said Hazelwood.
For more information on how you can support public education through the Wylie ISD Education Foundation, please go to wisdfoundation.org.
AND JUST LIKE THAT, WE HAVE READERS
In the battle between paper, electronic, and audio books, Wylie ISD students win.
A fifth grader at Draper Intermediate, Carter Esch curls up in a beanbag in the corner of Priscilla Patterson’s English/Language Arts classroom, opens up his computer, and logs into a world of imagination. It’s SORA, the Wylie ISD district wide library of eBooks and audiobooks which was recently expanded through two grants from Wylie ISD Education Foundation.
Today, it’s “Big Nate – I Smell a Pop Quiz!” by Lincoln Peirce, that has captured Esch’s interest.
“It’s about a middle schooler’s adventures in school,” said Esch. “It’s really funny and entertaining. I like reading on SORA at school because there’s more of a selection and books I don’t have at home.”
In 2020, librarians from across the district at intermediate, junior high, and high school levels collaborated on “Reading for the Brand,” a grant which would bring 4,000 more eBooks and
audiobooks into the district. In 2021, the grant, dubbed “Portable Magic Grant,” was expanded to include elementary schools.
Then, the world shut down.
As students were suddenly learning in their PJs in front of iPads and Chromebooks and figuring out how to mute and unmute, Wylie ISD students checked out more than 32,500 books. The pandemic boosted the virtual library’s usage 152 percent year-over-year. The locked down students disappeared into mystical lands, jumped into action as superheroes, and learned
more about the world around them – all while fostering a love for reading.
“If a student tells me they don’t like reading, I say, ‘Yes, you do! You just haven’t found the right book,’” said Paige Walton, Campus Librarian at Burnett Junior High and one of the grants’
This week, Kellie Fowler, an eighth grade English/Language Arts teacher and girls’ coach at Burnett dropped by Walton’s library on the hunt for something to engage two reluctant readers in her class. The girls had tried several genres and had not found anything that piqued their interest or kept them engaged. After a bit of searching and a lot of questions, the pair found several audiobooks. In the last few days, both Walton and Fowler have had several conversations with the girls about their books and how much they love them – that is, when they can get them to put down their headphones for a few minutes.
And just like that, we have two more readers.
It should be no surprise that students have checked out more than 32,500 eBooks and audiobooks, with more than 10,000 books currently on hold. This is a good problem to have.
Wylie ISD’s more than 18,000 students love to read. These grants are getting books into more students’ hands, devices, and ears.
Meanwhile, back in the quiet corner of Patterson’s class, Esch plans his next adventure.
“I’m planning to read a Minecraft book about two kids on an adventure in a cave,” he said.
Grant collaborators for “Reading for the Brand” and “Portable Magic Grant” include D’Anne Mosby from Davis Intermediate, Alejandra Isais from Bush Elementary, Mary Kirkpatrick from Wylie High, Vicki Townsend from Wylie East High, Paige Walton from Burnett Junior High, Linda Sanchez from Cooper Junior High, Shelley Salcido from McMillan Junior High, Kristy Unger from Harrison Intermediate, and Rhia Johnson from Draper Intermediate.
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