Warren named Teacher of the Year
Anytime you pass the classroom of Courtney Warren at Canton Academy (CA), you will find dancing, costumes, and even rubber ducks.
Warren is the English Chair at CA and teaches junior high English where she has revamped the curriculum to incorporate both classic and modern literature in unique ways.
She was recently named the Best of Mississippi Teacher of the Year for her efforts and recognized by Governor Tate Reeves.
“I was honored to even receive the nomination. To win teacher of the year was a surprise and really gave me the assurance that my out-of-the-box style is impacting my students positively,” said Warren.
With a costume for each book, Warren loves to introduce stories in unique ways to better engage her students.
“I think it’s important that students not only see themselves in the books they are reading but also find a way to connect to the story when they don’t. By making it fun and active, the students remember what they’ve read and learned,” she said.
Recently, Warren completed Lord of the Flies with her eighth-grade students, and then, dressed as host Jeff Probst, she placed students into “tribes” to put them through Survivor-style challenges.
“This is an activity they look forward to every year. They play different challenges each day ranging from puzzles and brain games to endurance challenges. Each day we talk about how those challenges connect to the various themes in Golding’s book before we have a tribal council just like on the show,” said Warren.
Realizing summer reading was also a bore, Warren made the decision to revamp the program to something unseen in surrounding schools.
“Summer reading is a tough one, especially for a child that doesn’t like to read. I took that as a challenge and wanted to find a story that every single junior high and high schooler would enjoy. Rather than reading for a test, they would take and then forget, our students choose a book from a pretty great list and then create a summer reading project,” Warren explained.
While most schools only give one to two options, Warren provided the junior high with 20 book options as well as the high school.
“Not everyone likes the same things. I wanted to ensure they had a diverse list with all sorts of topics. The entire point of reading is escaping. You learn a different perspective or you find yourself within the pages. The moment it becomes work, I’ve lost a student,” she said.
With that in mind, Warren keeps it fun in her classroom, even incorporating rubber ducks for character analysis.
“It was actually something I saw on Tik Tok! I love using social media to learn about what other teachers are doing in their classrooms. We have rubber ducks that are dressed in a fun way or have various colors. The students decide which duck represents which character in the book we’re reading. They back their choices with textual evidence. It’s just another fun way to examine a text without giving a boring worksheet,” she said.
With a rubber duck in one hand, a cowbell in the other, and most likely a fairy costume, Warren is always excited and ready to celebrate literacy at CA and with her students.
The Best of Mississippi Awards were presented by Business Empowered Mississippi and the gala was held in Pass Christian in October.