This past October, more than 100 educators representing different grade levels, schools and communities traveled to Atlanta for an experience that one described as simply “awe-inspiring.”
“I was awestruck, it was truly transformational” said Kathy Smith, a fourth-grade teacher at Gibson Elementary in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, recounting her experience at the first-ever “BB&T Ron Clark Academy Teacher Training Day.”
A $500,000 BB&T grant to Atlanta's highly acclaimed private, nonprofit middle school made an inaugural "Training Day" available this fall to 100 deserving teachers from North Carolina. And BB&T anticipates the grant will make the annual one-of-a-kind educational experience available through 2022 for teachers throughout the bank’s 15-state footprint.
In addition to being internationally lauded for the way it educates students with academic rigor, passion and creativity, and attracting attention from such prominent supporters as media mogul and long-time education advocate Oprah Winfrey, The Ron Clark Academy is also an educator training facility. Since 2007, over 45,000 teachers, administrators and superintendents have participated in the school’s professional development programs to learn how to replicate its philosophy and student engagement model in their own schools.
BB&T covers training, transportation, lodging and other expenses for educators from schools who primarily serve low-income and at-risk populations and demonstrate a commitment to applying innovative approaches for student success. Throughout the “Training Day,” participants observe academy teachers in action, attend workshops on teaching practices and family involvement, and learn how to make magic happen in the classroom.
“It was eye-opening to see the level of engagement in the academy students and then realize we have the potential to do that same thing at our school,” Smith said. “I believe it made all of us re-think what’s possible.”
Teachers at the academy lead highly participative training filled with excitement and energy – lots of walking on desks, dancing and music – as visiting educators learn creative techniques to promote student engagement while maintaining a culture that emphasizes high expectations, manners, respect and discipline.
“The Ron Clark Academy unlocks the potential of everyone who walks through its doors, so we are very proud to partner with them,” said BB&T Georgia Regional President Heath Campbell. “Our hope is when educators experience the academy, they return to their classrooms feeling empowered, supported and encouraged to be better teachers, as well as better leaders, coaches and community members. This grant reflects BB&T’s ongoing commitment to education and supporting programs that create positive change and make the world a better place to live.”
For Glenn Starnes, principal at Gibson Elementary, attending “Training Day” was a game-changing experience.
“I’ve worked at three different schools and I’ve never seen anything like the Ron Clark Academy,” Starnes said. “As educators, we want to bring our very best for our students. Through this program, we were able to experience what excellence looks and sounds like and bring that understanding back to our classrooms. Our leadership team is now having intentional conversations about what high expectations look like for our school. We know if we expect more from each other and are clear in our expectations, our students will rise to that level, too. That’s good for everyone.”