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James Clemens faculty encourages engagement, learning by doing

Cookie-cutter teachers don’t exist at James Clemens High School. Assistant principal Heather Donaldson believes the faculty is blending new recipes for student success.

Principal Dr. Brian Clayton and other administrators want every individual to assume a leadership role — students, staff, faculty — and have established “content and pod leads,” Donaldson said.

Similar to a department chair, a content lead builds collaboration and support within the department. “Pod leads manage phenomenal resources in each pod, like the student project room and resource room, and promote engagement and collaboration across the curriculum,” Donaldson said.

Content and pod leads assist with “school-level, embedded professional development, which (engages) students in the classroom,” she said.

James Clemens’ faculty thrives from its diversity. Some teachers have worked many years in the system, while others have relocated from California, Colorado and Georgia, bringing unique experiences and ideas.

“We’re all starting together,” Donaldson said.

Donaldson acknowledged Leah McRae, science department and biomedical program lead. “Mrs. McRae brings learning to life in her classroom. Students play an active role by becoming the ‘scientists’ themselves.”

McRae’s students learn to use equipment and interpret results — learning by doing. “They’re experiencing it themselves, not by the teacher ‘telling’ them,” Donaldson said.

Daniel Whitt works as media specialist, mentor for instructional technology and broadcasting teacher. “Mr. Whitt’s students don’t merely sit on the side and watch him,” she said.

Whitt guides his students through every step of the production process to become masters of this art. Last year at Liberty Middle School, Whitt’s broadcasting class created the student-driven ‘I Am Human'” video. “This video speaks to individuals on so many different levels and drives home that we’re all different … valuable … human,” Donaldson said.

Whitt also has used “amazing techniques” to found the JETS Press. “Mr. Whitt goes beyond the classroom and reaches out to his colleagues to help them feel more comfortable with integrating technology into their classrooms,” she said.

In his world history class, Coach Clint Woodfin “puts discovery, research and discussion in the students’ hands. His students … share and learn through Twitter, speeches, debates, silent movies, monologues and trials,” Donaldson said.

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