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McCormick's the man
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 Leonard McCormick, fifth grade teacher at Ficquett Elementary School, has taught his entire 17-year career at the school.

Currently, McCormick is working on his education doctorate from Argosy University. He hopes to complete his course work in May of 2009.

"My brain is crazy with statistics for a class right now," McCormick said.

McCormick teaches regular education mathematics, social studies and language arts. He said he never really thought about teaching until he was a young adult.

"When I was 19 or 20 I worked at a camp for mentally retarded kids," McCormick said.

His camp experience coupled with his experiences taking care of his cousin who was mildly mentally disabled, gave him the idea to work with young people.

Because McCormick is a fifth grade teacher, he focuses on mathematics and reading comprehension in the classroom because those subjects are large components of the Georgia Criterion Referenced Competency Tests students take in the spring.

He said the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act has greatly changed many aspects of education.

"There's no more social promotion," McCormick said.

According to McCormick teachers can no longer advance a student to the next grade level based solely on his or her social maturity. Students in the third, fifth and eighth grade must pass the math and reading portions of the CRCT to move to the next grade.

McCormick has seen other changes during his 17-year tenure such as the integration of special needs children into regular education classrooms. He said paraprofessionals' help is vital to successful integration.

Being a long-time teacher, McCormick has learned effective ways to manage behavior in his classroom. He divides his students into teams and one team member's misbehavior can take away points from the entire team.

At the end of every nine weeks, the team with the most points is awarded prizes such as homework passes, posters or sugary treats.

"They really buy into it," McCormick said. "They want their team to win."

McCormick was chosen by his peers as Ficquett's 2008 Teacher of the Year, so he knows how to generate student success.

Even though his students are almost in middle school, he said he enjoys reading to them because they like it.

McCormick also loves social studies and tries to think of interesting projects for his students.

For example, leading up to Black History Month he had the students profile an accomplished black person and challenged them to chose a figure other than Martin Luther King Jr.

He keeps a poster listing black inventors and their inventions for the annual project.

"These are things kids don't know until their teachers introduce it," McCormick said.

Students must also give an oral presentation and construct a Power Point presentation. McCormick said adding technological aspects to a lesson, is very important in today's classroom.

"I want these kids interested in the fifth grade so when they go to middle school they can say "well, I can do that,'" McCormick said.

He said he would like to see more parent involvement in the upper grades because not only does it help teachers, but also it motivates students to do well and take an interest in what they are learning.

"Sometimes parents think 'you're older now, so you don't need help,'" McCormick said, "but they do."

In a world of women, McCormick is a rare find as a male elementary school teacher.

"It cuts down on my Monday football talk," McCormick joked.

He said despite having to roam the halls to discuss his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers, he doesn't mind working with mostly women.

"They take care of me," McCormick said. "I'm not married and I don't have any kids, so they look after me."

McCormick laughed, insisting the best part of the job was the time off on all holidays and summers, but said the ability to start fresh year after year really gave the profession its appeal for him.

However, the students keep him coming back to school summer after summer.

"I really enjoy working with them, and I really like when they come back to visit me and tell me what they're doing." McCormick said. "They're cool and I like to watch them grow."