For most of us, middle school passes in a few, short, ungraceful years. For others, it becomes a profession.
Florida teacher Jo Ellen Stanley’s ongoing middle school career has earned her high praise—from her sixth-grade math class to the Governor’s office.
It all began in 2006. Stanley went to volunteer at her kids’ school in Florida and walked away with a job as a reading coach. She had a degree in education, but hadn’t yet exercised it as a teacher.The next year, her family moved to Virginia where she taught middle school math and science. Stanley loved it and excelled. During her last two years there, 100 percent of her students passed the state math exam.
When her family returned to Florida in 2012, Stanley took a position as a sixth-grade math teacher at Lehigh Acres Middle School, a hard-to-staff school in southwest Florida. The school’s student body is more than 80 percent minority, and 100 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced lunch (a common indicator of poverty). In this challenging environment, Stanley’s students’ experienced exceptional learning gains—so much so that this spring Florida Governor Rick Scott gave her a Shine award for outstanding educators.
While Stanley’s students likely don’t pay close attention to state test scores, they do notice that she cares about their education and has faith in their abilities. And above all, they know she doesn’t give up on students.