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Teacher stands out for innovative efforts


By Alex Welch
Assistant Editor 

  Unity Grove Elementary School in Locust Grove can now claim it has one of the most innovative educators in the state of Georgia after one of its first grade teachers was recognized by Gov. Nathan Deal.

  Amanda Cavin, a first grade teacher at Unity Grove, became one of three teachers in the state to receive a grant from the Innovation in Teaching Competition. Cavin applied for the grant by submitting a project-based lesson plan she completed with her class in the spring.

First grade teach Amanda Cavin (top right) is one of three teachers in Georgia to be recognized from the Innovation in Teaching Competition.                             Photo by Alex Welch

  “The driving question for this unit was, ‘Is it less expensive to grow your own food or purchase commercially grown food?’ Through that whole investigation, which was about a month long, the kids started out by researching the different types of soil, different types of plants that grow in our area, making an interactive map using QR codes,” Cavin said. “They collected data and used standard units of measurement. They actually created their own garden. So we were trying to learn about becoming a food-growing school.”

  Cavin said her students used Skype to video chat with other schools in California and Connecticut. The children at Unity Grove learned more about these other areas growing gardens in wine barrels and on roof tops, according to Cavin.

  Cavin received a grant during the previous school year to acquire iPads for her classroom. The students used the new technology to document data  while constructing the garden, and Cavin said she will have her children blog about their experiences and keep a digital portfolio when she uses this same lesson plan in the future.

  From the competition, Cavin was named the lone Georgia elementary school teacher to receive a $2,000 stipend and a $5,000 grant for Unity Grove. Principal Anne Wilson said that Cavin, who is a Talented and Gifted (TAG) teacher, always looks for opportunities to enhance the education of her students, along with her school in general.

  “She’s extremely innovative and driven. She’s progressive in her thinking and teaching style. Amanda is an incredible teacher and great role model for other teachers,” said Wilson. “She’s very collaborative. She always wants to involve the other teachers and bring everybody forward. It’s not all about her.”

  Wilson said Unity Grove will gather a cross-grade team to examine how the school should spend the $5,000. They are looking at purchasing more technology like iPads and laptops. As for Cavin, she said she will use her personal stipend to purchase a new computer, replacing her current 7-year-old laptop.

  Georgia Public Broadcasting will film Cavin and her class starting in October to create a video for other educators to learn from. Cavin said the video is a compiled resource to demonstrate project-based lessons to other teachers.



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