Position: Fourth Grade Teacher
School: Naomi Press Elementary School
School District: McKinney Independent School District
City, State: McKinney, Texas
About the Nominee: Joli Barker once said, “When I decided to become an educator, I wanted not only to make a difference in the lives of children, but in my community also. I wanted to ensure that every child that graced my classroom doorway would leave with a firm understanding of why and how the curriculum could be used in his or her life. I wanted to tear down the walls and expose my students to the world - their world -and the world of endless opportunities. I wanted to teach them that regardless of their age, economical situation, or ability level, they could succeed in making a difference in their own lives and their community.” Mrs. Barker has indeed done what she set out to do, and she’s just getting started. She wrote her book, "The Fearless Classroom: A Practical Guide to Experiential Learning," so that she could inspire other teachers and share what she learns each day. Her passion for empowering students and other educators has been recognized locally and globally through multiple awards, including being named a Microsoft Innovative Educator, a Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum Educator, TCEA Classroom Teacher of the Year, receiving Bammy nominations and being listed as part of the National School Board's "20 to Watch."
As a fourth-grade classroom teacher in the 21st century, Mrs. Barker believes it is imperative that she constantly educate herself on the latest technologies, games, interests and pop cultural influences that engage students daily. She believes it is important to seek out other innovative educators for her personal learning network (PLN), so that she can not only learn from them, but share her methodology with them. Being an educator means reaching beyond the classroom walls and immediate group of students into a global classroom of students and educators. She leads several professional development courses for her district and campus each year as well as parent workshops, both in-person and online. Additionally she presents annually at TCEA, Microsoft MIE, ISTE and many other conferences. Mrs. Barker is highly sought for her expertise in creating engaging and experiential learning environments filled with confidence building strategies and community service projects. She is well known for her global service projects, such as her award-winning "Heart Code Project" that helps provide local governmental and community resources to underprivileged youth across the world, seeking to rectify societal concerns that "break their heart."
Mrs. Barker is an active member of many organizations, including ISTE, TCEA, Discovery Education DEN, the DEN TX Leadership Council, the Microsoft Partners in Learning Community, and the Smithsonian's Center for Education's Advisory Board. Additionally, she is a Discovery STAR Educator, an ePals Ambassador, an Edmodo Recognized Educator, a Smithsonian Classroom Teacher and a Recognized Shout Learning Educator. Mrs. Barker also helped pioneer DENConnects.com and Smithsonian Shout Learning Quests. She was named TCEA Classroom Teacher of the Year 2013 and an ISTE 2013 Outstanding Teacher of the Year Finalist. Her contributions are substantial, and she has inspired many educators to think of more innovative ways of using technological devices and media to educate students.
Over the past few years, her students have been on a crusade to change the world. She actively seeks opportunities to connect with other classes around the world and affect change through student passions and genius. Her class has created some very influential projects, such as inspiring others to cut their carbon footprints and raising awareness about endangered animals and our environment (the results of this particular project made their way to the World Wildlife Fund and Taking it Global as projects to be honored). They have also created a global literacy project with Magic Tree House which earned a spot on team USA at the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum 2012. Additionally, her class opened a global dialogue about bullying through their project Write Our World. Finally, they've helped the victims of various tragedies such as the Japanese Tsunami, hurricanes in Louisiana and the explosion in West, Texas by raising awareness and connecting people with reputable resources to help.
Mrs. Barker always tries to push real-world connections because it’s not enough to just teach or learn things without figuring out how you can apply them. This type of instruction brings learning to a higher level for the students, one that allows them to make an impact. The students walk into school at the beginning of the year without realizing that they are stars in the world. The things they accomplish over the course of the year change their entire perception. They find out that even their little voices as fourth-graders can affect change in the world.
She believes that there is a significant shift in education from the teacher as the primary source of information, to the teacher being the facilitator of student-centered, idea-driven learning experiences. She created the Fearless Classroom to encourage teachers everywhere to create a classroom environment where student passions are encouraged and given a platform to affect real-world change.