Meet the Atlanta Families’ Awards winners: Nza Willingham (first in a series)
We’d like to celebrate the winners of the 2010 Atlanta Families’ Awards for Excellence in Education with a series of profiles, starting today with Nza Willingham, third-grade teacher at Brandon Elementary. (We’re starting with Ms. Willingham, frankly, because she was out on a rare sick day when we came out to Brandon on Jan. 22 to present her with her check!) In these profiles we’ll provide a little bio of the winner followed by a description of their projects.
The youngest daughter of two educators, Nza Willingham always knew she loved children. Her journey as an educator began as an little girl in her mother’s classroom, where she graded papers, completed bulletin boards and helped to prepare lessons, all the while proclaiming that she would be a pediatrician when she grew up. As she matured, she realized that her interest in medicine was not as strong as her affinity for children. Her deep curiosity in how the mind develops, led her to begin a course of study at Mercer University. She graduated with honors and earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Early Childhood Education in May of 2003.
After graduating she was hired to work at D.H. Stanton Elementary. During her five-year tenure there, she received many awards and accolades including Teacher of the Year, and the Project GRAD Master Teacher Award. She is currently enjoying her seventh year of teaching at Brandon, where she serves as one of nine third-grade teachers. She is an integral part of her team’s planning an instruction and strives to make difference each day.
“My plan will implement a traveling book club at Morris Brandon,” Willingham wrote of her project. ”The club’s purpose is to improve the reading comprehension skills of our school’s weakest readers and help them become more successful students. The club will consist of third-grade students who have been nominated by their teachers as students who will benefit from more specialized reading instruction. The students will meet after school and be guided through reading award-winning literature using the literature circle model.”
For example, she says, students could read Baseball Saved Us, Ken Mochizuki’s book about how playing baseball offered hope to his Japanese-American parents interned in Idaho during World War II. The students would then go visit Turner Field. Or they might read Marjorie Priceman’s How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, and then visit the Young Chefs Academy. “These are examples of how to make books come to life,” Willingham explained. “The one piece missing with our kids is deep comprehension. I think this project can help comprehension through life experience.”
Entry filed under: Arts & Literature, Atlanta Families' Awards, Community partners, Curriculum, Elementary Schools, Teachers, Teachers Honors. Tags: Atlanta Families' Awards for Excellence in Education, Brandon Elementary, Nza Willingham, Turner Field, Young Chefs Academy.