When Amelia Carr was teaching her kindergarten kids to recognize words visually, she got a little help from her siblings. In a YouTube video, the trio belts out Sister Sledges’ 70s hymn edge We are a family, with Carr demonstrating how to write the word “we” on a whiteboard.
For her ingenuity, passion, and talent for making learning for fun, the University of Mary Washington alumna was recently named Fairfax County Public Schools’ Outstanding New Elementary Teacher 2021.
In her classroom at Bucknell Elementary, a Title I school near her hometown of Alexandria, Virginia, Carr puts into practice the lessons she learned at UMW. Dealing with a global pandemic and teaching online is a challenge, she said, but also a confidence and creativity builder. âI wanted to make my classes as engaging as possible,â she said of the virtual learning, which lasted until the end of February for most of her students.
Carr, who dreamed of becoming a teacher all her life, said she was “immediately drawn to Mary Washington” because it was a small, state school with a strong College of Education (COE). She earned a bachelor’s degree in English with a major in creative writing and a minor in social justice in 2019, and has taught in Stafford County’s public schools. Last year she did a masterâs degree in elementary education at the UMW.
With Mary Washington, Carr found âwonderful mentorsâ like Associate Professor John Broome, who taught her culturally appealing teaching methods that have helped her make her teaching more inclusive. Your students greet each other in their mother tongue, learn about each other’s cultures, and read books that represent their different backgrounds. They also had a say in the development of class rules and norms.
Assistant Professor Melissa Wells said Carr’s commitment to educational equity was evident even in undergraduate studies. âShe stands up for all students and families as valuable members of her classroom learning community. It was a joy to see her thrive in her freshman year. ââ Amelia cares equally about the emotional development of her students and their academic growth, âFairfax County Public Schools said in a statement. “She understands that children learn best when they feel welcome, loved and represented.”
From Wells, Carr learned art integration practices that she incorporated into her teaching. She used puppet theater to teach her kindergarten children to read, played tambourine to count beats, and sang songs about life cycles and sustainability. She reads books like The ant and the grasshopper and The giving tree to help students think critically and ask questions. She also planned online excursions using Google Earth and organized virtual lunches and playgroups to encourage socialization.
Carr also invited virtual guest speakers, including a veterinarian, entomologist, high school football coach, former NFL players, and their student’s parents to share their careers. âAn important part of the kindergarten curriculum is getting to know the people who are helping our community,â she said.
Your students have reached first grade, but that doesn’t mean Carr will stop teaching in the summer. As part of the Bridge to K program at Fairfax schools, she will help incoming kindergarten children prepare for the coming year and she plans to spend some of her free time teaching children before going back to the classroom.
“Nothing beats the feeling of seeing your students burn their lightbulbs,” she said. “Being a teacher is the most humbling and rewarding job.”