McCormick’s the man

Long-time teacher makes read­ing a class­room pri­or­ity

The Covington News - - Opinion - By Jenny Thompson

Leonard McCormick, fifth grade teacher at Fic­quett El­e­men­tary School, has taught his en­tire 17- year ca­reer at the school.

Cur­rently, McCormick is work­ing on his ed­u­ca­tion doc­tor­ate from Ar­gosy Univer­sity. He hopes to com­plete his course work in May of 2009.

“ My brain is crazy with sta­tis­tics for a class right now,” McCormick said.

McCormick teaches reg­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion math­e­mat­ics, so­cial stud­ies and lan­guage arts. He said he never re­ally thought about teach­ing un­til he was a young adult.

“ When I was 19 or 20 I worked at a camp for men­tally re­tarded kids,” McCormick said.

His camp ex­pe­ri­ence cou­pled with his ex­pe­ri­ences tak­ing care of his cousin who was mildly men­tally dis­abled, gave him the idea to work with young peo­ple.

Be­cause McCormick is a fifth grade teacher, he fo­cuses on math­e­mat­ics and read­ing com­pre­hen­sion in the class­room be­cause those sub­jects are large com­po­nents of the Ge­or­gia Cri­te­rion Ref­er­enced Com­pe­tency Tests stu­dents take in the spring.

He said the 2001 No Child Left Be­hind Act has greatly changed many as­pects of ed­u­ca­tion.

“ There’s no more so­cial pro­mo­tion,” McCormick said.

Ac­cord­ing to McCormick teach­ers can no longer ad­vance a stu­dent to the next grade level based solely on his or her so­cial ma­tu­rity. Stu­dents in the third, fifth and eighth grade must pass the math and read­ing por­tions of the CRCT to move to the next grade.

McCormick has seen other changes dur­ing his 17- year ten­ure such as the in­te­gra­tion of spe­cial needs chil­dren into reg­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion class­rooms. He said para­pro­fes­sion­als’ help is vi­tal to suc­cess­ful in­te­gra­tion.

Be­ing a long- time teacher, McCormick has learned ef­fec­tive ways to man­age be­hav­ior in his class­room. He di­vides his stu­dents into teams and one team mem­ber’s mis­be­hav­ior can take away points from the en­tire team.

At the end of ev­ery nine weeks, the team with the most points is awarded prizes such as home­work passes, posters or sug­ary treats.

“ They re­ally buy into it,” McCormick said. “ They want their team to win.”

McCormick was cho­sen by his peers as Fic­quett’s 2008 Teacher of the Year, so he knows how to gen­er­ate stu­dent suc­cess.

Even though his stu­dents are al­most in mid­dle school, he said he en­joys read­ing to them be­cause they like it.

McCormick also loves so­cial stud­ies and tries to think of in­ter­est­ing projects for his stu­dents.

For ex­am­ple, lead­ing up to Black His­tory Month he had the stu­dents profile an ac­com­plished black per­son and chal­lenged them to chose a fig­ure other than Martin Luther King Jr.

He keeps a poster list­ing black in­ven­tors and their in­ven­tions for the an­nual project.

“ Th­ese are things kids don’t know un­til their teach­ers in­tro­duce it,” McCormick said.

Stu­dents must also give an oral pre­sen­ta­tion and con­struct a Power Point pre­sen­ta­tion. McCormick said adding tech­no­log­i­cal as­pects to a les­son, is very im­por­tant in to­day’s class­room.

“ I want th­ese kids in­ter­ested in the fifth grade so when they go to mid­dle school they can say “ well, I can do that,’” McCormick said.

He said he would like to see more par­ent in­volve­ment in the up­per grades be­cause not only does it help teach­ers, but also it mo­ti­vates stu­dents to do well and take an in­ter­est in what they are learn­ing.

“ Some­times par­ents think ‘ you’re older now, so you don’t need help,’” McCormick said, “ but they do.”

In a world of women, McCormick is a rare find as a male el­e­men­tary school teacher.

“ It cuts down on my Mon­day foot­ball talk,” McCormick joked.

He said de­spite hav­ing to roam the halls to dis­cuss his beloved Pitts­burgh Steel­ers, he doesn’t mind work­ing with mostly women.

“ They take care of me,” McCormick said. “ I’m not mar­ried and I don’t have any kids, so they look af­ter me.”

McCormick laughed, in­sist­ing the best part of the job was the time off on all hol­i­days and sum­mers, but said the abil­ity to start fresh year af­ter year re­ally gave the pro­fes­sion its ap­peal for him.

How­ever, the stu­dents keep him com­ing back to school sum­mer af­ter sum­mer.

“ I re­ally en­joy work­ing with them, and I re­ally like when they come back to visit me and tell me what they’re do­ing.” McCormick said. “ They’re cool and I like to watch them grow.”

Jenny Thompson/The Cov­ing­ton News

Leonard McCormick, fifth grade teacher at Fic­quett El­e­men­tary School, be­gan his ca­reer in ed­u­ca­tion at the school in 1991 and has taught there for 17 years. He hopes to com­plete work on his spe­cial­ist de­gree in May of 2009.

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