ICS instructor named Rhode Island Elementary Arts Teacher of the year
PAWTUCKET — In fascination and with great attention, the students, seated in a circle on a bright red rug, in this second grade classroom at the International Charter School (ICS) listen to their teacher, Ms. Alison Plump, one of two chosen as Elementary Arts Teacher of the Year by the Rhode Island Arts Educators Association (RIAEA).
“We’re going to read one of my favorite books,” said Ms. Alison, as the kids refer to all teachers in the school by their first names. “And I know it’s one of yours too,” she continued, holding up the book with a red cover and picture of a monster on it.
“It looks like spaghetti!” says one of the children seated on the rug.
Observing the classroom, one sees a teacher who is open to the needs of her students.
“In this setting (ICS), I have seen nothing but positive results,” she said. “When their (students) home language is put aside, it negates their culture and devalues them.”
ICS was founded on the basis of bilingual education with two different programs for students K-5, a bilingual Spanish-English track and a bilingual Portuguese-English track. There are currently 320 students at the school.
Plumb’s nomination was put forward by Dr. Julie Nora, the school’s principal.
“She’s a stellar educator,” said Dr. Nora. “Not just in the subject matter she specializes in, but in other things too.”
Plumb has taken part in other projects at the school, including a revamp of the Social Studies curriculum and even going the extra mile or ten as is this particular case.
“Each year, she figures out a way to get kids to the RISD Museum,” said Nora. “Word is out that she’s a great teacher.”
For Plumb, the thrill comes just from doing what she loves.
“Teaching multicultural art is controversial,” she said. “You can’t really just touch things on the surface, if you want to do it right.”
That means linking art with lessons in other class. An example which Plump cited is when a Lusophone group was working on a theme about Carnaval in Social Studies, she would have the students paint Carnaval masks. In this way, students would not only have fun, but also learn the deeper meaning behind the activity.
Her philosophy is working, at least for Juanita Carrera, a 2nd grade student of Plump’s.
“I like to paint in her classes,” she said in Spanish. “She has us do things that are very fun.”
The day’s lesson was lines and Plumb asked the students to do a little more than just draw. After passing string around the rug, she directed her students to make lines with them. They showed her what vertical, diagonal and zig-zag lines look like. Then comes the moment of truth.
“Now, it’s going to get a little bit harder,” she said. “Your challenge: five loops. Let’s see if you can get it!”
After several tries most students did end up creating loops of five on the red rug. William Derby, however, was especially happy with his accomplishment of six loops.
“It looks like spaghetti!” he proclaimed.
“It sounds cheesy, but I like what I do,” said Plump. “This award is certainly rewarding personally and professionally… Just to be recognized in what is sometimes an isolated position (in a charter school).”
She insists she could not have done this alone.
“If it weren’t for a great community, it couldn’t have happened,” she concluded.
The second award was given to Ms. Michelle Turner of Blackstone Valley Prep Charter School.