Teacher helps students put thoughts into words

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, April 28, 2015

NW0428 City Teacher of the Year Fox A

Writing well is a major component of being able to express oneself and to communicate effectively, and West Side Elementary teacher LeeAnn Fox works to make sure her students master that skill.

Fox, a fourth- and fifth-grade writing teacher, hopes to share her lifelong passion for writing with the students through the lessons in her classroom. The City Board of Education recognized Fox recently as West Side’s Teacher of the Year for grades 5-8 and specialty areas.

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“I always love when the children ask about writing,” Fox said. “When I see them in the hall, and they ask what are they going to write about today, or when they show excitement and they want to write and they want to come to class, that is always a good moment for me. I think they are in need of writing as a creative outlet. It is a good thing I get to share with them.”

After being in her class, Fox hopes the students “have the ability to write even if they don’t love it.” Students work on reading comprehension skills and conveying their thoughts and ideas into written form.

“Writing class is not handwriting like it used to be,” Fox said. “It is less about the way the writing looks and more about them creating what they want to say.”

Most of the classroom assignments are not handwritten in their final form. Students are creating typed papers that cover a variety of topics, including science experiments, important public figures and fictional narratives surrounding a writing prompt.

“We read articles, and then we talk about them, and then they write about what we discussed,” Fox said.

A current project for the students is to write a narrative from the point of view of a world that no longer has electricity. Students could choose to write from the point of view of someone who knew about electricity and then lived in the world where it was gone, or as a person who had never gotten to experience electricity for themselves and had only heard stories about it, Fox said.

Fox has been a teacher for 15 years and has worked all of them with the Elizabethton school system. She taught third grade for nine years and fifth grade for five years. This is the first year she has worked as the fourth- and fifth-grade writing teacher. The focus in this year’s writing class is on science-related topics.

West Side Elementary has increased a focus on writing skills, Fox said. The school is putting in more writing instruction time in all subject matters and is helping students become more adept at expressing themselves through the written word.

“We try to write across the curriculum,” Fox said. “Everything, including math, is becoming more writing intensive, and I love that. I like giving the children the ability to express themselves through writing. With writing I can see concrete evidence that they understand and they are getting it.”

Fox grew up in Carter County, and attended Hunter Elementary through eighth grade and Elizabethton High School. She attended East Tennessee State University to earn her bachelor’s degree and Tusculum College to get her master’s degree.

“I feel like there is a major drive for success in the city schools and there is a major emphasis on what the child needs,” Fox said. “Everybody is working for the same goal, and all the teachers are working toward the same thing. There is very much a team aspect to what we are doing.”

Fox’s colleagues at West Side nominated her for the Teacher of the Year award, which Fox has won once before.

“It is exciting to be acknowledged for what I do, since I enjoy what I do so much,” she said.

Fox’s students agree with the decision to name their teacher Teacher of the Year.

Class time with Fox has helped 4th-grader Mackenzie Ramey appreciate writing more than she did before.

“When I’m in class I get the motivation to write,” Ramey said. “Ms. Fox explains it to where we get it and we won’t miss what we need to learn. She helps us have confidence in ourselves and she is always really kind and sweet to us.”

Fourth-grader Nathan Fulmer now takes time to write on his own, something he said he didn’t do before being in Fox’s class.

“I didn’t really write before, but I have an old computer at home and I like to write on it,” he said. “I’ll read about important people, like presidents, and then I will write about them. I basically like educating myself now and Ms. Fox helped with that. She really explains how write and do it well.”

For Alex Musick, who creates his own comic books, writing has always been a favorite hobby, but Fox’s lessons have helped him improve his skills.

“Ms. Fox passes my other teachers by far,” Musick said. “Learning these new kinds of writing has helped me out a lot. I have learned new words to use if I have used a word too much. Ms. Fox has made me a better writer.”