Each Day is a Teachable Day


Henry J. Oliver Elementary School is a school with a lot of love,” said second grade teacher Tamika L. Smith. “Love for learning, caring and growing.”

Smith has been teaching at Oliver Elementary for the past three years and at Gate City Elementary School prior to that. Oliver Elementary is one of five schools within the Woodlawn Innovation Network (WIN). As part of the work occurring in those schools, KnowledgeWorks coaches are collaborating with staff at the schools “to reorganize traditional school structures into models of innovation and moving from traditional classrooms to spaces of student-centered, blended learning focused on the academic growth of every child as they are immersed in inquiry and problem-solving,” said Robin Kanaan, KnowledgeWorks’ National Director of Teaching and Learning.

Smith is on one of the design teams working with Kanaan to help shape the direction of Oliver Elementary for next year. “Our team has worked really hard this year to prepare our teachers and ourselves for next year,” she said. “We have been working on the Top Five District Priorities all year: Reading & Writing Across The Curriculum; Problem-Based Learning; Scope & Sequence; Fractions/Basic Computation; and Mastery of the Lowest Levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.”

Smith has been working with KnowledgeWorks Technical Assistance Coach Patti Gibson over the past year and Gibson has observed that “Tamika makes math come to life! You would never believe these students are second grade learners!”

For Smith, who loves working with kids that love to explore and learn new things, Gibson has been helping to expand the way she teaches, including relying more on Bloom’s taxonomy and incorporating reading and writing across all subject areas. “I’m making sure real-world application is done through PBL (problem-based learning) where students research and answer questions,” said Smith.

“Tamika teaches complex concepts in a variety of interesting ways,” said Gibson. “Students journal their work, use Promethean boards and keep portfolios regularly.”

Each student in Smith’s classroom has a journal with separate sections for different subject groupings. In their journals, students complete different assignments like quick writes, creating foldables and charts for science and social studies and explaining their thought process for how they reach an answer.

“In the journals the students are able to express themselves and get their thoughts together before sharing with the class,” said Smith.

For Smith, Math is incorporated into class every day and in every subject because it’s so relevant to real-world applications. She recalls one lesson where students were learning about money.

“While working with money the students were able to relate the dimes and pennies with the base-ten blocks,” Smith said. “The nickels they knew to count by fives and for the quarters they made a money key with pictures and symbols. After that we worked on counting different amounts of money and different ways to get that amount.”

Working with money, something the students had a firm grasp about the importance of, Smith was able to see her students reach an Aha! moment and really understand math in a different way.

As the next several years progress and the work within the Woodlawn Innovation Network continues, work within Oliver Elementary and Smith’s classroom will continue to evolve, but that fits right with her own personal motto: “Each day is to teachable day.”