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For the love of learning
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Tracey McCartney, fourth grade teacher at Fairview Elementary, has many different types of learners in her class.

McCartney, teacher of 15 years, teaches the advanced and gifted fourth grade class at Fairview.

"Teaching is a challenge because kids are at all different levels, and you have to adapt to each level," McCartney said.

She explained how researchers have identified four basic types of learners. The first is called a mastery learner, and they like knowing all the facts. They learn best from textbooks and lectures.

Since her students read C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," she explained how she incorporates different projects involving the book into instruction for each of the learning styles. Mastery learners will perform best on quizzes and book reports about the plot of the story.

The second type is called an understanding learner. These students enjoy connecting what they are learning to other things. Understanding learners will want to compare and contrast Lewis' characters' journeys in the book to ones in another story.

Self-expressive learners like to create poems, sing songs or paint pictures about what they are learning. McCartney's self-expressive learners took pleasure from writing poems about bridges and what they symbolize in a story about journeys.

"Some were really cute," McCartney said, "in the shape of a bridge or with the words going across the bridge."

The last type of learner is the sensory learner, who learns best by connecting personally with what he or she is learning.

McCartney had a student share his experiences on a Latin American vacation to foster discussion among other students about vacations, or journeys, they have taken.

According to McCartney, any learner will benefit from the use of technology in the classroom. She said her students have all had fun working on e-Learning projects such as researching beavers (a character in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) on the computers in their classroom.

"It's really exciting - the kids get really excited about it," McCartney said.

McCartney explained how teaching has changed during the past decade and a half she has taught elementary school.

"We're giving more personalized instruction to make sure kids don't fall through the gaps," McCartney said. "Before it was either you got it, or you don't."

She also said students are now much more visual learners because of the internet and video games than when she started teaching.

"We've got to retrain ourselves to be able to accommodate how they learn," McCartney said.

Because McCartney understands her students learn in many unique ways, she has been recognized as an excellent teacher as a Newton County finalist for 2003 Teacher of the Year and Fairview Elementary's selection for this year's competition.

She said she knew education was her calling from a very early age.

"I remember playing teacher when I was a little girl - in Brownies and Girl Scouts - it's just always what I wanted to do," McCartney said.

Because McCartney loves her job, she said most of the time standing in front of her class does not feel like work.

"It's not a job to me - I love what I do," McCartney said. "I love the kids, they make me laugh, I feel comfortable around them and I love to learn."