Two students working on a plant observation project.

Teacher Spotlight: Taylor Vickery

Taylor Vickery—a 2017 TFA-Orlando corps member—has exemplified what it means to show leadership and zeal where it matters most: the classroom.
Thursday, March 29, 2018
Teach For America teacher, Taylor Vickery standing in front of her classroom.
Taylor Vickery teaches science at Union Park Middle School.

For the past month, Taylor has been introducing her students to the different parts of plant and animal cells. While any ordinary teacher would simply have students memorize cell and animal parts, Ms. Vickery asked her students to create plant and animal cell hashtags, which ultimately helped them remember each cell part, where it belongs, and why they are important. Classic example for mitochondria: #powerhouseofthecell.

When kids enthusiastically offered up their hashtags Taylor pushed them even further to articulate why they chose that hashtag. In doing so, Ms. Vickery was able to check for understanding, and to get her students to justify their thinking, thus increasing the rigor of discussion. Wow!

Ms. Vickery’s method was an awesome culturally relevant component of the lesson. People often assume that “culturally relevant pedagogy” is solely about race/ethnicity. While these are salient parts of culture, culturally responsive teaching is all about teaching in a way that kids can access any given aspect of their culture. Kids are fluent in the language of hashtags, and digital media is certainly an important aspect of culture!

Data shows that students whose lives and cultures are not treated as important are less likely to invest in the overall learning process, whereas those who are empowered and feel valued will be ready to learn, even if that connection is made through something as simple as a hashtag! Taylor Vickery shows us once again that teaching is true leadership and has the power to transform lives!