What happens when a teacher decides that she wants to make sure that no child is truly left behind? You get students who would have slipped through the cracks suddenly transforming into winners. In this case, Midway Elementary School technology and math teacher Victoria Williams worked with two of the most unlikely achievers. One student was so withdrawn, that she barely spoke to other students, much less her teachers. Fifth grader Ariyanna witnessed the shooting of her mother as a young child. Traumatized, but still very bright, Ariyanna became the technology guru in a science fair project that took first place at the school, the county, and the region. Her partner, Israel, 11, was an even more unlikely winner given that he has struggled with dyslexia and depression as a result of the condition.
Israel was primarily known for classroom tantrums and being teased by other kids — that is until he began working with Ariyanna and was mentored by Williams. The teacher worked with the two children almost every day after school to get them ready for the state science fair and technology competition in Macon, Ga. One of her first conversations after arriving with the children in Macon was with another technology teacher who bragged about her school’s nearly $500,000 lab. Fighting a creeping sense of intimidation, Williams said she compared Midway’s meager lab and thought the children might suffer their first loss to better-funded programs. To her delight, the children won third place for their project on hydroponics, the science of growing vegetation without soil.
The students grew tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and figs in pots filled with only clay balls.
While most would consider the victory winning both science and technology recognitions a victory, the real highlight was the change that many witnessed in both students. Ariyanna came out her shell and Israel gained much needed self-confidence. Ms. Williams says that these students represent only the beginning of what can be done when teachers decide to reach out to all students, not just those who appear motivated. “The students left in the cracks need us more than the others,” says Williams, who is seeking funding to expand her efforts to teach technology. “I want to get all students excited about something.”