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Sugar Hill Elementary receives visit from governors office
Pam Williams stops to take a photo of Sugar Hill Elementary student work hanging in the school’s hallways Monday morning during her visit to the Hall County school. Williams is education outreach coordinator for the Governor’s Office.

At Sugar Hill Elementary School, 5-year-old students are learning how to make PowerPoints and film instructional videos.

One kindergarten teacher at the school was recognized last year with a grant for her innovation in the classroom, and the honor also earned the school a visit Monday from a representative with the Governor’s Office.

“It was an award I received last year for innovation in the classroom, meaning innovative practices and different approaches to teaching children,” said Lindsey Rhodes, Sugar Hill kindergarten teacher. “It’s incorporating technology, as many hands-on activities as they can do, small groups — just a variety of instruction.”

Rhodes and her fellow teachers at Sugar Hill were visited by Pam Williams, education outreach coordinator for Gov. Nathan Deal.

“Because this is a new position that Gov. Deal just came up with in January, we started visits with our innovation grant winners,” said Williams “So I visit the schools where they are and tour their schools.”

Rhodes uses technology in her classroom in a number of ways. She pulled up a video on YouTube and displayed it on an overhead projector. It played “This Land is Your Land” while the students practiced doing sign language to the lyrics.

“Our students are also learning about the difference between fiction and nonfiction, particularly in writing,” Rhodes said. “So we are researching different animals, and we did a unit on polar animals. Our students researched penguins, polar bears and actually made a PowerPoint.”

Rhodes said she taught her kindergarten students to find PowerPoint on the desktop and how to upload pictures to their PowerPoints.

The students also use Quick Response Codes, or the square barcodes that can be scanned by a phone or tablet to open a website immediately.

“We’ve also created QR Codes,” Rhodes said. “We record the students presenting an idea or talking about their topic, and then upload the video and create a QR Code so they can share it with others.”

The codes are displayed in the hallways outside students’ classrooms, so students can share their work quickly with each other. Rhodes said they consider themselves “famous,” because they have videos online.

“They love it,” she said. “They think it’s so cool. So they actually take the iPods out in the hallways, scan the QR Code and hear each other’s projects.”

Williams visited every classroom from kindergarten to fifth grade and thanked the teachers for their work.

She observed Torri Keller’s first-grade classroom, which was doing a “phonics dance,” or a dance to help students practice their vowels and consonants. Williams also stopped by first-year teacher Johanna Kell’s classroom, where students were conducting surveys and making bar graphs on small whiteboards.

Rhodes said it was “an honor” for the school to be visited by Williams.

“I take so much pride in my school, in Sugar Hill, and I’m so proud of all our teachers,” she said. “We work very hard, and there’s just a sense of community here.”

Following Williams’ visit, she posted photos and video on the Facebook page Distinguished Educators and Learners. The site has become a resource for innovative teachers across the state to share their ideas, she said.

Principal Beth Skarda said she’s proud of the work her faculty and staff do every day, and she was grateful to Williams for visiting and showing her gratitude to the teachers at Sugar Hill.

“Everybody likes to feel appreciated,” Skarda said. “Just the fact that she’s taken the time to speak to each teacher means a lot.”