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Teacher Spotlight: Sarah Lucas of Georgetown K-8 School

About this feature: The 100,000+ classroom teachers in Georgia’s public schools are on the front lines of education. They’re nurturing dreams and showing children what’s possible. And they’re making sure students have the tools they need to make those dreams a reality. Teacher Spotlights, a recurring feature from the Georgia Department of Education, introduces you to those educators.

In this edition of Teacher Spotlights, meet Sarah Lucas. She’s a third grade teacher at Georgetown K-8 School in the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, and a project on ocean pollution she created for her students led to her being named a recipient of the Governor’s Innovation in Teaching Award. We talked with her about innovative instruction, project-based learning, moments of inspiration and the passion that makes learning fun.

On choosing education as a profession

“I never thought I would be a teacher despite the fact I have been around kids my whole life. I took an intro education course and changed my major from Biology to Early Childhood Education.”

On the ocean pollution project that led to her Innovation in Teaching award

“My pollution unit focused on the fact that no matter where we live and who we are, we can help reduce pollution and make a difference keeping our environment safer and cleaner for us and all of the animals who live in the various habitats. Once I began my unit, my kids had a sense of ownership with our topic. I guided a hands-on ocean pollution project where the students polluted their own oceans (a very visual and hands-on project that clearly had a negative impact on the plastic animals – we can only imagine how horrible it would be if it was the real ocean).”

On staying motivated to provide innovative instruction for students

“Honestly, it is a lot of work, but it definitely pays off to watch my kids excel and learn to love learning and teaching. I want it to be ‘fun’ and enjoyable for me and for my kids. We like to say ‘play’ and ‘fun,’ but remember that we are truly ‘working.’”

On moments to stop and remember why you love teaching

“I had a student last year who wrote in his spelling homework that he hated school. He was such an intelligent student and worked diligently; I could not understand why he would hate school. We talked about this and I asked him to let me know how I could help him fix this problem. About a month later, while acting out Because of Winn-Dixie, he informed me that he thinks I helped him fix his problem…my heart was touched.

This year, with just a little over a week into the new year, I informed my class that it was time to pack up. One boy said, ‘Oh, it must have been a short day.’ I laughed and said, ‘Oh, no, it was quite a long day, you have been here since 7:30 this morning!’ It must have been quite a productive day for him to think that it flew by so quickly!”

On her advice for first-year teachers

“First, gain your students’ respect and set your expectations high. Once you know your students and they know you, then you should start making them responsible for more than just their work. They should be responsible for their learning and helping others learn, along with helping you teach. Then you all have ownership and will cheer each other on.”

On the key to instruction that kids enjoy

“My teaching revolves around what I love – animals (sea turtles and birds are at the top of my list), nature, science and photography. My kids then learn to love what I learn and I learn to love what they enjoy. We all benefit from each other’s favorite things. The secret key is to make everything fun and find a way to make it interesting for every child – even topics you would not think would be considered fun.”​