- Francis Commey
Ladonna Stephens: Instilling success and excellence in the classroom
Ladonna Stephens of East Cobb Middle School has made a promise to herself to have every student experience success in her classroom. “I have always felt that when I can get students to experience any success, even a little success in math,” she said. “That success breeds success and students are more inclined to engage in math class every day.”
Ladonna Stephens knew she wanted to be a teacher at a young age. The fact she was great with numbers and math helped her decide what subject to teach. “I knew when I was in 7th grade that I wanted to be a math teacher,” she said. “My 7th grade math teacher would let me help other students after I had completed my work.”
Currently, she is teaching her 15th year. At this point in her career, she has taught algebra for almost every grade. She also took a 20-year hiatus from teaching in the classroom to focus on raising her own kids, but eventually transitioned back to being in the classroom. “I have taught high school Algebra, 1 to 8th graders, and co-taught math in the past 9 years,” she said.
Although there were a lot of changes to the classroom in those 20 years , particularly from a technological standpoint, Ladonna has adapted by investing heavily in her personal growth as a teacher to keep up with technology. “I use a good bit of technology in my classes because it provides immediate feedback to the students,” she said. “I really try to praise and acknowledge the behavior I feel is needed for a successful learning environment.”
Even with the influx of technology, the whiteboard still plays a vital role in Ladonna’s classroom because it builds relationships between teachers and students. It is so important that there are whiteboards all around Ladonna's class, making it a unique learning environment for her students.
“I can stand in the middle of the room and turn 360 degrees to see everyone working at the same time,” she said. “It is also where struggling students can see other students’ work or seek peer help as needed. Students love being able to work problems on their desktops.”
Her teaching style is very structured and strict, but this method has proven to be most successful for her students academically and has only led to the results she’s looking for in her classroom. “I am very strict and structured and have found the routineness and consistency of my class to work for my students to be successful in math, “she said.
For Ladonna, this strictness comes out of wanting to see her students succeed. She is aware of the impact that she has on the lives of her students, and how she can guide them towards excellence and good habits. “I like for them to have ownership of their learning, so I try not to influence their answers, but try to instill that deeper learning and confidence of how they arrived at their answer.”
Photos courtesy of Ladonna Stephens