After reading Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s Fish in a Tree over spring break, seventh grade teacher Kaleigh McAlister knew that the book would provide much needed inspiration and self-confidence for her students to finish the school year.
“The book has so many elements of what we teach in language arts, but the book’s overall message for students is why I really wanted to share it with my class,” McAlister explained. “I think the book does a good job of showing them that they are more than the pieces of themselves.”
The book’s main character Ally, is finally learning to read after struggling with Dyslexia her whole life. Her past teachers labeled her as a trouble maker who would rather disrupt class and crack jokes than do her assignments. When she gets a new teacher, he shows Ally that nothing is impossible and that her life has endless possibilities.
“I want my students to know that their dreams are within reach, and that I believe in them just like the teacher in the book,” McAlister said with a smile. “The book is really about having a mindset of personal growth.”
When McAlister returned from spring break, she found out that she had just missed the April 7 deadline to request school funds. Principal Todd Barbee encouraged her to reach out to the Haywood County Schools Foundation for assistance.
Within hours of sending an email to Foundation Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere, McAlister was writing a grant for $205 to purchase the books.
“The Haywood County Schools Foundation has allowed me to share a book that I love with my students, foster an environment for open discussion within my classroom about the various conflicts that students face, and openly discuss different learning abilities and disabilities that impact my students’ daily lives,” McAlister said. “The lessons around the book have helped me connect with my students on a deeper level than before, study our content through a new and exciting piece of literature, and prepare them for the rest of their school careers.”
Each day when students enter McAlister’s class, she gives them a topic to focus on and then asks them to pull text evidence from the book. So far, McAlister has used the book to discuss symbolism, internal and external conflict, character development, sensory details, imagery, figurative language, as well as the author’s purpose.
It is not often that teenagers admittedly relate to the characters in the books they are assigned to read.
“I like the book because it is relatable, and I feel like I can connect Ally’s story to real life,” Kendall, a seventh grader, said. “Ms. McAlister is always upbeat and positive, which inspires us all to do more.”
McAlister is hopeful that the lessons from Fish in a Tree about annotating text, answering higher-level thinking questions, and other language arts subjects will help her students as they prepare for end-of-grade tests (EOGs).
“Teachers like Ms. McAlister are what make Haywood County Schools a top performer in the state,” Valliere said. “The Foundation is proud to be able to support grants that benefit our students’ education.”
The Haywood County Schools Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding educational opportunities for the students and faculty of Haywood County Schools.
Each fall, the Haywood County Schools Foundation offers teacher and faculty grants from First Citizens Bank, Evergreen Packaging, Duke Energy, HomeTrust Bank and QuickDraw. Last November, the Haywood County Schools Foundation awarded more than 170 grants to teachers and faculty totaling more than $35,000 for the 2016-17 school year. Grants will open for the 2017-18 school year late summer/fall.
For more information about sponsoring classroom grants, contact Haywood County Schools Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere at 828-456-2400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.