Challenging students in the classroom

Posted on Sep 19 2012 - 11:28pm by Lacey Russell

Jay Levy accomplished something in his first year of teaching that many other teachers take years to achieve. Levy, a 9th- and 10th-grade English teacher at Pisgah High School in Brandon, led his students to a 98.1 percent passing rate on the English II state test, which was the highest in the state of Mississippi for the 2011-12 school year. He was also named Teacher of the Year at Pisgah in the same year. Pisgah is a Title 1 school. At Title 1 schools, students receive free or reduced lunches and most come from poor economic backgrounds. Although Pisgah is a Title 1 school, that does not mean Levy is not concerned with challenging students academically. “I remember when I had my interview, our school had a sign up that said, ‘2011 Star School,’” Levy said. “A star school is the highest rating given to a high school. I knew going on in that there was going to be a lot of stress because of those standards. I tried to do the very best I could because I knew those students were depending on me.” In 2011, Levy graduated from The University of Mississippi’s School of Education. Months earlier, during his junior year of college, Levy got into a car accident that left him paralyzed. “It taught me about when you face hard situations in life,” Levy said. “You know the saying of ‘when life throws you lemons, make lemonade.’ It definitely taught me that you are going to face some hard times in life, but it definitely depends on how you react those times.” Dr. Rosemary Oliphant-Ingham, professor of teacher education here at the university and a mentor to Levy, said she was inspired the most by the fact that he never let his disability become an excuse. When many of her students go out into the teaching field, one piece of advice that she gives to them is to understand the students and adjust according to their strengths and weaknesses, a trait that Levy has acquired. “The most important element is the student; you have to teach to the student,” she said. To get students to be more interactive in his class, Levy has them create different Facebook pages for Shakespeare characters. The students also have the chance to incorporate different music genres into lessons, such as hip-hop and rhythm and blues. Andrew Abernathy, communications specialist for the School of Education, learned about Levy’s success through the principal of Pisgah. He then got the chance to visit Levy’s class. “He is a natural classroom leader from what we observed in one day,” Abernathy said. “The best teachers control their classrooms constantly, and he seems to always be in control. “A lot of good teachers have a commanding presence, and that just naturally puts people a little straighter in their chairs.”

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