It all began when Pinewood Principal, Rachael Postle-Brown nominated Julie Clark and the ACT program for The Today’s Show’s “Cool School” feature. Ms. Postle-Brown knew she was an ideal candidate for a story because “Julie is very creative when it comes to her lesson planning. She is always looking for new and exciting ways to get the students engaged. Julie also is very focused on teaching content standards and challenging the students. This combination ensures her lessons are covering necessary content while keeping students excited and connected to the experiences.”
The ACT program, or ACademically Talented, is housed at Pinewood Elementary and Ms. Clark works with just over 200 Jenison students in third through sixth grades. “The program gives a chance for our students to challenge themselves and push beyond the traditional classroom limits. It is an opportunity for them to bond with students from other buildings and build a community based on loving learning and academic excellence. We provide an array of supports and interventions for students who are struggling and we want to be sure we are offering the same supports to students who are excelling. Our job as educators is to meet every student where they are at and to help them grow and go further. ACT let us do that for our gifted learners.” – Ms Postle-Brown
Mrs. Clark’s visit to NBC’s The Today Show featured her and current ACT third grader, Morri McCluggage, as well! They featured her lesson on using carnival games to to teach probability and had constructed Morri’s game to be played on the show. In the classroom, students played “various games [such as dice games, board games, card games, etc.] in which we explored data collection, measures of central tendency, theoretical and experimental probabilities of the games, the likelihood of winning, fractions, and percents. The students were asked to show what they learned by developing their own carnival games and rules.”
As part of this culminating activity, we invited parents and other classrooms to play our games. The ACT students put on their “teacher hats” by asking players to make predictions about the likelihood of winning their games, teaching the mathematics involved, and explaining whether or not their game was “fair.” In the end, the students were able to showcase their learning through a hands-on, team, or self-led project.”
When Morri was asked to join her beloved teacher on the show her response she couldn’t believe it. “When Mom asked me in my head I said,”WAAAAAAAAA, this is just a dream. I will wake up now.” Then I pinched myself on the face hard. Turns out it was real. It felt awesome.” [Emoji’s her own.]
Morri was joined by her dad in NYC and Mrs Clark by her husband. They didn’t get a lot of time to sight see but did have the opportunity to experience the behind-the scenes action of TV! “[Last Wednesday morning we] headed over to the “green room” for hair and make-up. Imagine our delight when Tom Brokaw and John Cena sat right between us! To top that off, Lionel Richie was warming up in a room behind our chairs. Carson Daly, Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford also passed by and gave us a big thumbs ups! As we were waiting to go on-air, we were excited to have the opportunity to see Wrangler [the Today Show’s service dog]. Of course, we wanted to get a picture with him [let me tell you, puppy kisses before going “on-air” are fantastic!].
Once we got on set, Natalie Morales greeted us as we prepared for our segment. Our three minutes on-air flew by! Afterwards, we had an opportunity to chat briefly with Natalie, John, and Willie Geist. It was clear that the hosts, producers, and crew members were excited about our segment and really interested in featuring our nation’s “Cool Schools” in such a positive light.”
Mrs Clark is a JPS graduate and has been working in the district for nine years. She is challenged by her students and loves to design learning experiences that are hands-on and challenging. “Fun is a passion of mine. As an educator, it is important to me to open the minds of my students to an array of learning possibilities while helping them to grow academically, socially, and emotionally. Above all, I want my students to know how special they are as unique individuals.” She also acknowledges that working with this group is not without it’s [good] challenges. “My students are able to manipulate ideas and draw generalizations. I appreciate when they are excited to teach me and share their personal problem solving strategies — it certainly keeps me on my toes!”
“Unfortunately in today’s media a positive story on education is not always easy to find. I really appreciate the Today Show and NBC doing a series that shows all of the amazing things that happen in public education across the country. Julie was the perfect representative for all of the great things that happen at Pinewood and throughout Jenison. Julie is one of many awesome teachers we have and when I walk into classrooms throughout my building every day I am impressed with passion and enthusiasm every Jenison teacher has for their students.” – Ms. Postle-Brown
Of course, you can see Mrs. Clark and Morri rock national TV by clicking here.