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Teachers in Mississippi Delta District Quickly Turn QTL Concepts into Classroom Plans

June 24 , 2005

GREENWOOD, MS - More than a dozen Leflore County teachers and administrators are spending part of their summer in the classroom, finding new ways to reach every student, every day.

QTL Instructor Tamara McCulloch (far right) talks to Leflore County teachers Shundra Banks, Denise Mitchell and Deborah Phillips about an assignment involving a GPS device, a digital camera, and panorama software.

Teachers from Leflore County High, Amanda Elzy High, and East Elementary are going through an intensive program called "Quality Teaching and Learning," or QTL. They're learning to use technology and teaching strategies to help every student learn core subjects, from math and science to language arts and even music.

The participants are getting raves from those who are delivering the seven-day program.

"This is a wonderful group," says Tamara McCulloch of the non-profit Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning™. McCulloch has led numerous QTL trainings in several states, but says the Leflore County teachers have been particularly memorable. "They're all sharp. They all seem like real lead teachers."

The participants, meanwhile, say what they're learning is worth the loss of summer free time. They are already thinking about a different approach to teaching when school resumes in the fall - less lecturing, and more use of technology, group projects, hands-on activities, and student-led learning.

Science teacher Yvette Pirtle says the program will help her make the most of tools like PowerPoint that can make assignments more exciting for students. "I love technology," she says. "I'll definitely use this in my classroom."

But technology is only part of what she learned to use. As a biology major who never studied learning styles and educational theory in depth, Pirtle says participating in QTL has helped her understand those concepts and think of ways to put them to use.

"I've learned that there are different types of intelligence," she says. "Students may be word smart, math smart, people smart, nature smart. We're too quick to label kids as ADD or learning disabled, when we may just not have tapped into their 'smarts'. It allows us to try to use different methods of teaching to reach those students."

Other participants agree that getting through to students in non-traditional ways will make an enormous difference.

"It's not all that often that you go to a general workshop and learn things that you can use in band class," says Amanda Elzy High band director Russell Baxter, "but this, I can use. These are all things I can do with my students."

"Students learn in more than one way," he says. "It's up to us to provide opportunities to touch as many of their learning styles as we can. I plan to take full advantage of the use of multiple intelligences." He says that may involve unorthodox activities such as assigning PowerPoint projects to first-year band students.

Amanda Elzy High School teachers Cassandra Hansbrough and Charles Johnson take digital photos of an exhibit during a field study at the Cottonlandia Museum in Greenwood.

Amanda Elzy High math teacher Charles Johnson, a young educator who begins his third year of teaching this fall, says he also learned new aspects to students with different learning styles. "I realized I wasn't reaching all the different learning styles," he says, "but I'll have more strategies to do that. I've learned a lot that I can take back to the classroom."

For Johnson, that includes new tricks for using technology (such as educational software and digital cameras) as well as strategies like playing mood music in the classroom or using 'concept cubes' to teach about probability.

Other participants say educational concepts have suddenly become more understandable and real.

"I learned that I am a believer in constructivism," says Cassandra Hansbrough, an Amanda Elzy High English teacher. "I don't remember using that term before, but I've realized that I'm a big proponent of it. True learning is based on people building their own education and knowledge. If students are allowed to do this, they will be lifelong learners."

Amanda Elzy High assistant principal Melvin Cook is already an adept user of technology, the kind of person who can give advice about buying a new laptop or setting up a home wireless network. But he believes technology is sometimes overused in the classroom because it isn't used effectively. He expects QTL will help teachers avoid that trap.

"That's because it's strategies they are teaching," he says. "These are sound practices that will make it (the use of technology) useful , rather than frivolous."

That focus on strategies is what sold Tiffany Sanford on the program. Sanford, a Jones County teacher, participated in QTL last summer.

"I went back and told my principal I wanted tables (instead of individual desks), because I wanted to transform my classroom." she recalls. "He said 'Why tables?' I got him to go to the next QTL session with me. and the next day I got tables." The different setup has allowed her to give students more collaborative projects and has made her classroom more active.

Sanford was so excited by the transformation in her own classroom that this summer she is on the way to becoming a certified QTL instructor. She led the Leflore County QTL session.

"Most of the time, when you go to a workshop, they can be boring and you dread them," she says. "But with this one, you take it back to the classroom and work it with your students. And they learn. And some students who haven't been strong learners before suddenly soar."

It's an effect many Leflore County teachers fully expect to experience this fall.


For more information, contact Robin Fred via e-mail at or call him at 888.507.3800.

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