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TNTP Re-imagine Teaching

Lavinia Draper

3rd Grade Gifted/Accelerated, U.B. Kinsey Palmview Elementary School of the Arts West Palm Beach, FL

With 25 years of experience in the classroom spanning two continents, one might think Lavinia Draper would have perfected teaching a while ago. But that’s not how she looks at her wealth of experience. ”A teacher's worst enemy is feeling that she's learned everything and knows everything,” she says.

In her classroom at U.B. Kinsey Palmview, Lavinia constantly finds new ways to integrate the arts into her curriculum and bring history and literature to life by dramatizing key historical events, discussing those events from multiple perspectives, and analyzing the outcomes. It isn’t uncommon to see students performing dramatic reenactments of scenes from texts while portraying historical figures like Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, or Anne Frank.

Lavinia holds a Ph.D and a Master’s degree, and has won many grants and awards including a Distinguished Fulbright Award for teaching. Outside of school, she has spent extensive time studying the foundations behind great teaching and its ability to dramatically increase student academic achievement.

Although 85 percent of students at her Title I school classify as economically disadvantaged, her approach to social studies and literacy helps them surpass school, district, and state averages on both district and state reading and writing exams. They have also won awards in local, state, and national writing contests that address human rights issues, civic responsibilities, and historic events.

The key to this success, Lavinia says, is taking advantage of every opportunity—whether it's a field trip, a partnership with a local arts group, or a writing competition—to make sure her class remains exciting for students year after year. “Never pass on any opportunities for your kids,” she says. “Take advantage of every learning experience because the more engaged you are, the more exciting your curriculum's going to be for your students.”