B.J. Lewis, teacher at Hickory Flat Attendance Center
By Dillon Mullan
Just after Thanksgiving last school year, B.J. Lewis walked by the playground at Hickory Flat Attendance Center and overheard her students playing. They were pretending to be characters from ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ – a book the third graders were reading in her class.
Right then, she knew she was at the right school teaching the right grade level.
“It was so awesome. When I realized that they were playing like the book characters on the playground I got emotional,” Lewis said. “It was so cool that they had gotten so invested in those characters. I immediately got really excited about continuing to teach them to love books.”
Lewis is entering her second year as Hickory Flat’s third grade language arts teacher and her 12th as a teacher. Previously, she taught at high schools before realizing she prefers the elementary level.
Inside Hickory Flat’s small school and tight community, she finds students to be more supportive of each other and well-behaved than any previous experience.
“I love third grade because the kids have started to be independent but still very much need you to guide them once in a while,” Lewis said. “One of the things I’m always telling my husband is that I can’t believe how nice all these kids are. It’s always ‘Yes ma’am or no ma’am’ and I barely have any discipline problems.”
In May, Lewis learned that all 44 of her students passed their third-grade reading test on the first attempt. That feat seemed impossible after the first practice test back in early October.
Then she committed to not only teaching the content but also making sure her students were comfortable taking the online test. They knew how to highlight passages, eliminate clearly incorrect multiple choice options and take notes in the margins.
Once testing day came around, her students were ready.
“They knew what to expect,” Lewis said. “We knew the content, but the test is like a game that you have to know how to play. I told them that we practice, practice practice and then the test day is game day.”