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Meet Inspiring Educator Kami Ferguson of Demorest Elementary in Georgia

Meet Inspiring Educator Kami Ferguson of Demorest Elementary in Georgia

You won’t catch students in Kami Ferguson’s 2nd grade classroom saying, “This is too hard.” Nor will you hear, “I can’t do this” or “I’m done.” In Kami’s class, there’s always more learning to do.

“I don't let my kids say, ‘This is too hard,’” said Kami. "No, it is not too hard. We just have to figure out a way around it, but it's not too hard. We're just going to break it down, and we're going to move forward."

Kami, who teaches 2nd grade at Demorest Elementary School (DES) in Demorest, Georgia, was recently recognized as one of Edmentum’s 2018 Inspiring Educators. She was distinguished for her outstanding commitment to her students, her use of technology in her classroom, and her inspiring ability to encourage her students to achieve success. We had the opportunity to chat with Kami about the ways she uses technology in her classroom, how she gets her students excited and eager to learn, and how she uses data to guide her instruction.

But, first, we wanted to know, with more than 20 years of experience as a classroom teacher, what led Kami to become an educator?

“I've always known that I wanted to be an educator,” she said. “When I was little, my dad gave me this huge chalkboard that I had in the basement, and I would play school with my sister and our dolls, and I would teach them.”

Her passion for teaching ultimately led her to Demorest Elementary, where she’s taught nearly every grade, though her true love is teaching her 2nd graders.

“They still call me ‘Mama’ sometimes by accident, and I get lots of hugs,” said Kami. “Kids love you. Those are the things that make it worth coming to school every day—is when you know your kids love and respect you.”

Kami said she also loves to see her 2nd graders learning, especially when they get excited about it. She uses technology in her classroom every day, both as a way to collect data on her students to help drive her instruction and as a motivational tool to keep her students interested and engaged in their learning.

Sometimes, Kami uses short educational videos to introduce new skills and get her students excited about what she will be teaching, and she uses Edmentum Exact Path for 15 minutes per subject every day to help close skill gaps and drive growth. She awards students who earn a certain number of Trophies in the program with the ability to join her for lunch in the classroom.

In addition to Exact Path, Kami couples her students’ online learning options with Edmentum’s practice and formative assessment program, Study Island.

This digital tool is used as a way to differentiate instruction and get students who are falling behind back on track via what Kami coins a “fix-it” plan. Study Island has topics aligned to Georgia standards that help Kami provide practice on grade level for her class. When students have a few extra minutes of class time, they are allowed to log on to Study Island and practice in game mode. They can also earn a pizza party at the end of the year if they earn enough Blue Ribbons by demonstrating topic mastery or if they keep their average score up.

“They love [using Study Island and Exact Path], they'll beg me to tell them where their current learning goal is because I look at that several times a week,” Kami said. She explained how she uses the programs to find out where her students need help so that she can separate them into smaller groups and help them understand what they’re missing. “I want them at least on 2nd [grade] or above. So, if they've fallen below 2nd grade, if they're on kindergarten or 1st, I look to see exactly what they're having trouble with, and then, I pull them over and conference with them and try to push them up by pulling maybe a worksheet or just working together with them to try to push them up. I think that helps so they don't get discouraged and they're not feeling like they can't move on.”

Kami has no problem admitting she loves using incentives in her classroom to keep her students motivated. But, don’t be fooled—she’s not just rewarding her students with pizza parties; she’s teaching them how to be motivated by their own progress.

“I'm big on positive reinforcement,” Kami said. “I think that works better than being negative. You know, ‘This is where you are. Why are you here?’ That's not my teaching style. My teaching style [is], ‘Well, let's see what we can do to get you back up to where you need to be.’ That's why I guess my kids aren't afraid to ask me, ‘Where am I?’”

Kami’s students love to look at their Exact Path data with her, she said, because they get excited when they see themselves advancing.

“They will ask, ‘Where's my learning path?’ Or, when we do the diagnostic [assessment], ‘Did I grow? How much did I grow? Let me see,’” said Kami. “They do get to look at their data, and we look at it quite often together, so I think that helps push them.”

Kami also shares her students’ Study Island data with them and uses it to help guide her small-group instruction so that her students who are below grade level get back on track.

“We like data,” she said. “I like to look at data. I think data informs your lesson plan—what I do with my lesson plans and where I move my students. But, the kids also have to look at their data. They have to see. I can't just say, ‘This is where you are.’ I have to show them.”

As a teacher, Kami wants all of her students to be learning on or above grade level. But, more importantly, Kami wants to teach her students that nothing is ever too hard and that their hard work will always pay off.

Please join us as we extend our heartiest congratulations to Edmentum’s Inspiring Educator, Kami Ferguson! We know that she’ll continue teach her students the value of a growth mindset and keep them motivated and inspired to learn! Thanks for your incredible work, Kami!

Interested in learning more about Edmentum’s Educator of the Year Award and this year’s Inspiring Educator honorees? Take a look at this blog post announcing all of this year’s winners, and check back for more winner profiles coming soon!