Camelot Academy’s Teacher of the Year Credits Interactive Computer Program for Helping Her Students Succeed
Alexis Stewart’s dedication to her students and the professional way she manages her computer skills class have earned her Teacher of the Year honors at Camelot Academy in Philadelphia.
“Mrs. Stewart consistently impacts our school’s growth, in both math and reading, with her computer class system and testing methods. She supports the entire school team by reinforcing the core content in her computer class,” said Camelot Academy’s executive director, Greg McCleary. “On the personal side, she serves as a kind of surrogate mother for our students, and they are strongly attracted to her. She’s able to get beyond the barriers that some students put up and is able to help them. She deserves to be rewarded on both the academic and mentoring fronts.”
Stewart is beginning her fifth year at Camelot Academy, having joined the school right after graduating from Cheyney University in 2015.
The computer skills class plays an essential role at Camelot Academy. Stewart teaches and augments math and English lessons students are learning while also increasing students’ computer skills.
“Most of the students who come to us are not familiar with doing research. They don’t know how to type or do certain functions on the computer,” Stewart said. “So, when I make my lesson plan, I’m coming up with ways that teach students how to work on the computer in addition to supplementing their core subject area abilities. I also try to constantly alternate lessons and methods so they don’t get bored. One week we might do an English project, but the next week, we’ll do something involving math. And I coordinate my lesson plans with the math and English teachers, so we’re all teaching on the same lesson.”
For the 2018-19 school year, Stewart began using a program called Edmodo, which allows her to share content, distribute quizzes and assignments, and manage communication with students, teachers, and parents.
“I was able to set it up exactly how I wanted it to be used. I place students’ assignments on the platform; they log on and are able to see what assignment is due. I’ll add a link to it, a Word doc, whatever the case may be, and that’s how we communicate. Everything is either on a projector, or I’m walking around the classroom making sure everybody can see it. It’s a really cool tool, and it helped me make sure our students were actually learning the computer techniques I wanted them to learn,” Stewart said.
One reason the students buy into Edmodo, according to Stewart, is because the system has Facebook-like features.
“They can comment on their classmates’ material if they post it on the wall,” she said. “You have to post your assignment in order to comment on other students’ work, and of course, we have rules. The comments from other students help kids know what they did really well or how they might have made an error. The social media aspect excited the students, and it helps students engage educationally.”
As for why students gravitate toward her, Stewart said it’s primarily because they know she can relate to their circumstances.
“A lot of our kids are from high poverty areas of the city. They have a sense for people who they feel will protect them and who have their best interests at heart. That’s what I try to do all the time; just being a solid person in their lives, and they respond well to it.”
Both Stewart and Executive Director McCleary say students at Camelot Academy know they are surrounded by people at school who care about them, and after this strong bond has been created, teaching the curriculum comes naturally. “After we understand our students’ skill-set and learning style, we then work our way up with their education. They also know that, by working within the school’s structure, they will progress and succeed,” McCleary said.
As Stewart prepares to begin her fifth year at Camelot Academy, she tells the story of a 6th grade student who came to the school in her first year. The student returned to his regular school to start 7th grade, but by the middle of eighth grade was referred back to Camelot Academy.
“He was playful. He didn’t care about his school work. He thought everything was a game,” she said. “As a middle school team, we had to figure out how we could help this student. We usually offer a student like this the opportunity to assist teachers. Having that responsibility leads the student to interact with more people than he naturally would. Once he felt like he had power and was more engaged with teachers, his behavior and his academics turned around, because he wanted to be a positive role model. He wanted to try so hard to be a good person; he just needed that extra push. Earning his way into our student government may have been the greatest accomplishment of his life. He graduated from middle school in June, and now he is moving on to a traditional high school. We feel he is more than ready. Helping students like him is what drives me to come to work every day.”
Stewart admits she was very excited about winning Teacher of the Year. She actually set it as a goal for herself and worked very hard, not only with her students, but also emerging as a leader and support system for the middle school staff. She believes she has grown so much in her first four years at Camelot Academy that she feels prepared for an opportunity to become an academic coordinator or student services director. It sounds like her executive director agrees.
“The sky’s the limit for her,” McCleary said. “I could see her moving into a leadership role if that’s something she wants to pursue. She’ll have many options ahead of her. We’re just glad she’s here.”
Camelot Academy is a transitional program, in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia, which serves students in grades 6-12 who have been removed from their home school for behavior violations. While at Camelot Academy, students are provided with an instructional program that supports academic remediation and helps get them back on track for promotion and graduation.
Our programs strive to give students behavioral tools and strategies to help them make decisions different from the ones that led them to their suspension or expulsion, so that when they return to campus, they can enjoy an education free of behavioral referrals or incidents.