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Elementary Teachers Visit the Inspiring Ron Clark Academy

February 17, 2017
By Shelley Greenlee (4th), Anissa Demonbreun (5th), Tori Lane (5th), and Jeanne Graham (3rd)

Four Nashville Christian School teachers recently had the opportunity to fulfill a dream listed on their “teacher bucket lists." The first week in February, Anissa Demonbreun (5th grade), Tori Lane (5th grade), Shelley Greenlee (4th grade), and Jeanne Graham (3rd grade) attended Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, GA. Ron Clark is an American educator who has worked with disadvantaged students in North Carolina, inner city New York, and most currently in his own school, Ron Clark Academy. The two-day training included opportunities for our NCS teachers to not only learn from Mr. Clark, but also experience his way of teaching for themselves. RCA (Ron Clark Academy) believes in keeping students engaged through several techniques including the "55 Essential Rules” coined by Mr. Clark himself.  

RCA has been featured in a multitude of media outlets, including “CBS This Morning” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show." The 130 RCA students (grades 5th - 8th) have the opportunity to not only attend this private institution for an academic education, but they also learn social and life skills that prepare them for the next level. Most RCA students come from extremely low-income families. Upon entering RCA in the 5th grade, students are in the 13th-15th percentile in academic standings. RCA prides itself on the hard work that its very small faculty and student body put in each and every day. The past three years, RCA has produced testing scores over the 93rd percentile! How do they do this? Through extreme teaching techniques that keep students engaged, challenged and ALWAYS thinking. There is no down time, and teachers expect students to be active, team learners that debate and guide one another to answers.

While visiting RCA, our teachers spent many hours in classrooms and came back renewed and full of ideas. All four teachers were excited to share their newfound inspiration with their coworkers and were given the opportunity to share and train other NCS teachers at a recent faculty meeting. Here's what they had to say about the experience:

“RCA was easily one of the top five best experiences of my life. I was brought to tears watching students engage with one another, and overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness and appreciation they showed us as educators. These kids come from nothing and value everything about their education. It was life-changing as a teacher, and made me want to work even harder.”
- Shelley Greenlee

“Being an educator for 23 years that has attended many professional developments, RCA was by far the best experience I have attended in all my years of teaching. We were able to watch and participate in classes where teaching and learning techniques were taken entirely to a new level. It showed us as teachers that rigor and learning can be fun while instilling good character traits in students. The confidence the students at RCA showed us over and over again made a huge impression on us all. This experience has changed me as a teacher, and that will hopefully trickle down to my students in my classroom.”  
- Anissa Demonbreun

"This experience is one that has been on my bucket list since I went to Central Michigan University. I was overwhelmed by the positivity, creativity, and magic that exudes from every single person at RCA. It was exciting, mind-blowing, and truly an experience that I will never forget. I walked away feeling inspired, energized, and on fire to return to Nashville Christian School and do amazing work on behalf of all of my students!"
- Victoria Lane

"To be honest, I was not prepared for what I experienced at Ron Clark Academy. The other three teachers who were going had an idea of what to expect. Watching and listening to them as our time to enter RCA approached, I increasingly felt like a child who had found a "golden ticket" without knowing how important it was. Entering the arched gate and the doors to the school, then being greeted by a band and students who look you in the eye and genuinely make you feel welcome was heartwarming and exhilarating. Observing the deliberate interactions between dedicated faculty and engaged students made me realize that expectations for our children need to be increased. Knowing what is possible and seeing how to attain it, is inspiring. There are so many lessons I want to share from this experience. However, my hope is that all of our faculty can go and experience RCA for themselves. Nashville Christian School is a great institution of learning, but we can always work to be better. Ron Clark is an innovator in education. Many of his ideas are worth trying here."
- Jeanne Graham, 3rd Grade Teacher

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