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Florida Department of Education/Macy’s Teacher of the Year 2009

Photo of Jean Lamar 2009 Teacher of the Year
Jean Lamar
National Board Certified Teacher
English/Language Arts/Intensive Reading
Callahan Middle School, Nassau County

In order to compete with 21st century technology such as text messaging, iPods, blogs, and My Space, 18-year veteran teacher Jean Lamar knows realistically that in order to teach the critical skills of reading, writing, and thinking to her eighth graders, she must use innovative, unconventional methods, to say the least.

A casual observer of Jean’s classroom might find her students making inferences through film clips, listening to a current song to make text connections, or involved in an “experiment” to illustrate discrimination. On another day, her students might be painting graffiti from a character’s point of view, role-playing argumentative scenarios, discussing in literature circles, or writing song lyrics to illustrate a theme. Her colleagues describe Jean’s methods as “over the top,” and indeed, when she does something, she likes to do it BIG so her students won’t forget it. Perhaps that’s one reason why she is a strong advocate of thematic instruction; she wants her students to see the “big picture” and make innumerable connections. At least a couple of times a year, it’s also not unusual to see Jean and her students engaged in elaborate projects like the “Mysteries in the Middle” family workshop/play, a school-wide Shakespeare festival, or a “One Book, One School” campaign involving the book’s author and school-wide discussion groups. Jean says, “If I’m not having fun, I know my students aren’t” – perhaps the rationale behind her endless quest for new ways to engage her students.

All the excitement, however, does not deter her from pushing her students toward rigor and excellence. Jean firmly believes in explicit modeling and peer tutoring that again, she implements not only in her classroom, but school-wide. The results have been phenomenal. Leading schools where she has taught to some of the highest writing scores in the state, Jean plans to extend her writing success to reading, using her original “Paradigm for Success.”

“If I had to choose one quality necessary to be an exemplary teacher,” Jean says, “I would have to say passion. In order to be successful, teachers must have passion for their subject, but most of all, for their students. After all, they are the reason we teach. And their successes make all our efforts worthwhile.”

Jean is available for speaking engagements as well as any of these workshops:

  • Florida Writes Assessment
  • 6 Traits Writing
  • Class &/or school-wide peer tutoring
  • Using modeling to teach literacy
  • Teaching process reading & writing
  • Book Talks/Literature Circles
  • Teaching reading using print & film
  • Reading/writing across curriculum
  • Differentiated instruction
  • Fun reading &/or writing activities
  • Vocabulary instruction
  • Teaching intensive reading blocks
  • New teacher training