Metro Parent Top Teachers Awards 2012
Here they are! Meet five fabulous southeast Michigan educators who truly put the 'excel' in excellence – from band to special needs to science
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James Fisher, Fifth Grade Teacher, Ferry Elementary School, Grosse Pointe Woods
Economics boring? Not in Mr. Fisher's class. This fifth-grade teacher at Ferry Elementary School in Grosse Pointe Woods keeps students engaged by making learning fun.
For two weeks, James Fisher's fifth-grade classroom at Ferry Elementary in Grosse Pointe Woods went through a transformation: It became Fisher Island. Students brought in refrigerator boxes to craft storefronts out of their desks. Then they lined up their stores in rows to make streets – after all, they needed to make their city presentable when customers (eager second- and third-graders) came in to "buy" their wares. They developed their own currency and flag, and even wrote a constitution for their classroom oasis.
Patricia Guest, who teaches next door, couldn't help but notice the students' excitement about the endeavor, and something else: "I don't think they realized how hard they were working and how much they were learning."
Of the experience, and Fisher's teaching style, one of his students had this to say: "He really brings fun into teaching, and he's very energetic about what we're learning." This student, along with Fisher's entire class, decided to nominate him for the Top Teacher Award, explaining, "If any teacher deserves the Teacher of the Year award, it has to be Mr. Fisher. His love of teaching is astonishing and our love for him is unstoppable."
Fisher, a long-time teacher in the district but in his first year at Ferry, was surprised by his nomination – especially when he heard his entire talented and gifted class was involved. "I'm very fortunate to be working with a fine group of students. They're just like a big family."
Explaining his teaching style, Fisher says he looks at the standards that he's required to teach and then tries to think of creative ways for those concepts to come alive for his students. That's how Fisher Island came to be. The two-week project that culminated in creating an in-class town taught students complex economic and government principles, like supply and demand, all in the guise of a student-created and run island.
That formula – of brainstorming ways to teach concepts in an exciting way, introducing it to students and then letting them run with it – spills over into all of the topics Fisher teaches, from having the kids give themselves Shakespearean names during a literature unit to meeting them and their parents at a coffee shop to finish off a course on poetry with live readings of their work.