Springwood Teachers receive ‘Elite 100’ ranking

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, April 3, 2024

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Two Springwood school teachers have been listed on the IXL Elite 100 list. IXL, an instructional technology tool, is used by over a million teachers in 29 countries. Caroline Davidson and Alison Vinson, both fifth and sixth-grade teachers, were named among the top 100 educators to use the tool.

“IXL learning is an education technology platform used by schools to help teachers really personalized learning for their students…It is used by 15 million students,” said Joslyn Chesson, a Public Relations Associate with the company. 

Davidson and Vinson both use the tool consistently, as a supplemental tool to Springwood’s curriculum. While Vinson has moved into an administration role, as Springwood School’s director of academics, Davidson continues teaching fifth and sixth-grade ELA and science students. 

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“First, I have students take a brief weekly IXL diagnostic assessment.  Then,  I assign weekly IXL lessons that align with our ELA standards for the week,”  Davidson stated in a pre-interview email. “Once students complete their weekly IXL diagnostic assessment, they have up-to-date access to personalized recommendations and analytics that show their strengths and weaknesses in Reading Strategies, Writing Strategies, Vocabulary, and Grammar Mechanics.”

The program then gives the students some recommendations for areas to work on. Davidson said the assessments cover the skills the students are learning in the classroom. It gives them a chance to see, through data, what topics they have mastered and which topics to reinforce. 

The lessons are tailored to the individual student, whether they are below, at, or above their grade level. 

“By finding IXL lessons that target the learning gaps, I can fill in the missing pieces with extra practice, improve skills, and solidify knowledge,” Davidson said.

Davidson had come to Springwood three years ago, after spending most of her career as a counselor with Troup County public schools. COVID-19 has irreversibly changed education, she said. Wanting to make an even greater impact, Davidson moved to teaching when her children enrolled at Springwood. 

“It is such a blessing to be here and to have my kids here. My boys have now gone on to Auburn, and they are doing exceptionally well. I feel like they were very well prepared. I feel like [the teachers] work together as a team and we share our ideas,” Davidson said. 

While she taught counseling in her role with Troup, Davidson found herself teaching the core curriculum of ELA and science at Springwood. Wanting to slow down from the life of a school counselor, she took a role as a classroom assistant. After the first semester, an opening as a full-time teacher became available for sixth-grade English and science.

“My undergraduate degrees are in English and sociology, and this was an English and Science sixth grade [class], so it was kind of a little God wink,” Davidson said. “This was definitely not part of the original plan, but it’s just fallen into place. It’s been a really cool experience. So I started teaching fifth and sixth grade ELA and science after Christmas.”

While technology has become ubiquitous in classrooms, Davidson tries to balance its use. 

“We use technology every day, but we also use paper and pencil every day. We’re making sure that we are having kids write daily and building that stamina and confidence and fine-tuning all those grammatical and punctuation skills and even handwriting,” Davidson explained. 

The ELA teacher said tactile paper and pencil learning is vital for students to retain and reinforce the information taught. On the other side, her students are growing up and will eventually work in a technologically reliant world. 

“We do book reports from Google Slides and we use Google Docs for things too, because that’s important for them to have those skills but it’s also important for them to know how to get a pencil and paper and to write, to write well and to express themselves,” she explained.

There are plenty of technological tools the teachers use to engage with students and have students engage with each other. But, Davidson finds that engagement with others is the key, rather than just putting a kid in front of the computer. 

She said one of the most useful practices is peer-reviewing. The kids look at each other’s writing for editing and new ideas, which helps their writing skills. Davidson has already planned some experiential learning for this week and next for their section on stars and planets. 

On Monday, Alabama will be able to see a partial solar eclipse. The sixth-grade science class will end the week with a solar eclipse party, complete with glasses to view the phenomenon, Capri Sun and Moon pies. 

The small class sizes and resources of Springwood School have made for a great teaching environment, said Davidson. IXL is not a cheap product for schools to use, although it has a range of public, private, and charter schools as its users. However, Davidson has seen the growth of her students through using the system.

“[Vinson and I] use the program very methodically. And I think that’s what put us on the IXL radar because if you do the diagnostic weekly, and make assignments based on that, the growth is phenomenal,” Davidson said. 

The students work on their tailored lessons and can see where they need to grow as well as the topics they have mastered. Davidson has seen her students’ confidence grow as they complete their IXL lessons. 

“I get to teach these kids two years in a row…Entering fifth grade they’re still babies, and then when they leave me and get ready for seven it’s just amazing,” Davidson said earnestly. “The relationships that we’ve formed and their growth academically, spiritually and physically, I love it.”