CMDS Teachers Visit ‘Disney World for Teachers’ at Ron Clark Academy

New sights and sounds may be emerging from the third floor classrooms thanks to an inspiring training course the CMDS 5th and 6th grade teaching team attended in March. Literature teacher Nell Womack shares some of the details. 

CMDS 5th and 6th Grade Literature Teacher Nell Womack

Our team attended Educator Training at the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, where we picked up some out-of-the-box teaching techniques. If you pass by our classrooms on the third floor, you might notice Mrs. Reynolds explaining adverb phrases while standing on her chair, or Mrs. Wilford’s students singing along to “All About that BASE” while studying fractions.

You may catch a glimpse of Mr. Vaughn rapping about Greek and Roman word roots or see my Literature students using hand gestures to help them remember vocabulary definitions. Incorporating these sorts of procedures has already heightened student engagement and excitement about learning.

‘Disney World for Teachers’

The Ron Clark Academy aims to “to deliver the highest quality educational experience where global citizens are born through advanced rigor, engaging teaching methods, and a passionate climate and culture,” according to its Mission Statement. This unbelievably creative and enthusiastic culture has helped the school earn the nickname, “Disney World for Teachers.”

Hogwarts-inspired paintings featuring students’ faces line the halls. In each classroom, a djimbe drum allows fidgety students to stay focused as they keep the beat for songs and chants. A giant dragon on the wall of the gym breathes out actual smoke.

A two-story slide twists its way into the rotunda. Each fall, new RCA students spin a sorting wheel to see which of the school’s four “houses” will be their home for the four years they spend there.

While “Let it Go” blasts in an Algebra classroom, fake snow falls from the ceiling. These are just a few of the special touches that foster a true sense of magic at the school.

RCA Slide Certified

Ron Clark and Kim Bearden founded RCA in 2007. They designed the school with their 5th through 8th graders in mind, but they also had a vision to open their doors to educators. Teachers from around the world come to watch, learn, and be inspired.

In addition to observing master teachers as they interact with students in the classrooms, visiting educators attend Q&A sessions, workshops showcasing best practices in various subject areas, and motivational speeches from Clark, Bearden, and other staff members. At the end of the training, all four CMDS teachers became “RCA Slide Certified,” taking a trip down the two-story slide amid enthusiastic cheers from students and staff.

Our CMDS teachers noticed the delicate balance Ron Clark Academy has struck: providing structure and discipline on one hand, while weaving in creativity, passion, and enthusiasm on the other. Even though the atmosphere is undoubtedly positive and fun, students are held to extremely high standards with regards to behavior, manners, attitude, and work ethic. Because these qualities are valuable to us at CMDS, we hope to employ some of RCA’s unique methods to motivate and inspire our students to reach their full potential.

Since returning from Ron Clark Academy, our wheels have been turning. We are energized and excited to sprinkle some of RCA’s ideas into our own wonderful school.

“The energy and enthusiasm of the teachers and students was amazing and contagious. I learned that I can make small changes to my classroom (without having to change my curriculum) that will increase student participation and enthusiasm. These changes have positively affected students’ behavior during instruction because they are engaged not only with me but with their classmates. The changes have also affected me as I am aware that my energy directly affects my students. Active teaching does make a difference.” – Julie Reynolds, CMDS 5th and 6th Grade Grammar Teacher

Christ Methodist Day School opened its doors in 1958 to 75 kindergarten students. Since then, CMDS has stayed true to its Christian elementary school roots while continuing to thrive as one of the best private schools in Memphis. Come see why we are the primary choice for so many Memphis families.


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