[Education Issue]

Educators with an edge

Three local teachers who go way beyond the textbook

David Kelsey, professor of American Sign Language at Nevada State College

David Kelsey never raises his voice at students. He’s actually never spoken to them, at least not in the traditional sense. “My classroom is total immersion because ASL is not a voiced language. It is a visual language. I begin signing on the very first day, and in order to communicate with me, my students learn fast,” explains Kelsey, who was born completely deaf. “Deaf people are just like anyone, except unable to hear. When you see deaf people, do not be afraid. They are very patient with you. If you don’t know sign language, paper and pen are sufficient for communication purposes. If you know just basic sign language ... they appreciate that you’re learning.” — Deanna Rilling

Kimberly McGee, high school math teacher at West Preparatory School

“A2+B2=C2, Uh! Uh!” If you walk into Kimberly McGee’s class on a day when she’s working through a particularly difficult mathematical theory, you may not meet the bubbly teacher at all. Instead, you’ll find MC McGee, a number-inclined rapper with some lyrical flow. “I threaten I may go famous one day. P. Diddy may sign me,” laughs McGee. “Of course, I’d finish the school year first.” Whether it’s the complex quadratic formula or the Pythagorean theorem, McGee finds her students learn quicker when she’s busting a rhyme—and occasionally a move. “I’m trying to change that feeling towards math,” McGee says. One rap at a time. — Sarah Feldberg

Courtney Schorr, fourth grade teacher at Adelson Educational Campus

Imagine you’re a 10-year-old from Las Vegas. You’re learning about the pioneers moving westward across the United States, back before there was a Las Vegas at all. It all seems so ... unfathomable. That’s when Courtney Schorr turns out the lights. “I really try to have this visceral experience,” the locally raised elementary school teacher explains. “Imagine really what it must be like to be in a wagon for four months.” Imagination is a big part of Schorr’s teaching strategy. The former film student also does improvisation games, teaching students to listen to and support one another. “One of the first rules of improv is ‘yes, and ...’,” Schorr says. Instead of arguing, the students work together, whether they’re creating a scene or sketching a mental image of life on the Oregon Trail. — Sarah Feldberg


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