Kelli Waldrop

Position: Gifted Education Teacher School: Social Circle Elementary School

School District: Social Circle City Schools

City, State: Social Circle, Georgia

About the Nominee: Kelli Waldrop was nominated by her principal, Beth Pridgen.

Kelli Waldrop is an amazing young woman in many ways. As co-president of the Social Circle PTO, Mrs. Waldrop started a drive to build a new playground in response to parent surveys indicating that the current playground was old and unsafe. Through her efforts, over $10,000 was raised. She then wrote for and received a grant from a non-profit group for $20,000.00. In order to receive the grant, the Social Circle community had to secure enough votes to be in the top five towns. The tiny town did just that, and they now have a beautiful new playground dedicated to the children of Social Circle.

As a teacher of gifted students, Mrs. Waldrop has continued to seek ways to motivate, inspire and push her students to their potential. To meet her goal, she has sought to actively involve students in authentic learning. Her students learn how to apply reading, writing and math skills in meaningful ways. As a result of her efforts, Social Circle Elementary School became actively involved in a recycling program. Students were involved in collecting items for recycling and placing the bags outside for pick-up. A report provided by the company allowed students to graph just how much had been recycled each month, and a final report at the end of the year showed that the school had placed 3rd in the Keep Walton Beautiful initiative. They were also given the accolade as the Most Improved program for the year.

Through another grant awarded by the FERST Foundation, Mrs. Waldrop and Social Circle Elementary became the recipient of literally hundreds of books. Mrs. Waldrop organized a book room where students could "purchase" books with Behavior Bucks. Her students were responsible for running the book room and keeping information on how many books were purchased monthly and by which grade levels. This information was graphed and displayed in the hallway outside her classroom.

Using donated items at first, Mrs. Waldrop and her students opened a School Store where students could purchase basic school items. Students were responsible for selling the items, making change, purchasing and re-stocking items as needed and for keeping record of cash flow.

Finally, Mrs. Waldrop participated each morning as the leader in one of Social Circle Elementary’s "Morning Book Clubs" for struggling readers. Students were allowed to choose books they were interested in reading. During these sessions, Mrs. Walkdrop skillfully engaged students in active discussions, vocabulary acquisition and making meaning of the written text. All of the students demonstrated at least adequate growth in reading this year.

With all of these initiatives, students actively used their skills in reading, writing and math, often utilizing technology as a tool. Students were able to learn life skills and valuable lessons about connecting learning to others and to the community. They were engaged in meaningful discussions and had a sense of contributing to the greater good. Most recently, Mrs. Waldrop has received yet another grant which she plans to use to purchase one-to-one technology for her students, widening their ability to effect positive change, not only in themselves, but also in others. Mrs. Waldrop is truly a LifeChanger!

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