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TNTP Re-imagine Teaching

Carla McCall

8th Grade Math, Crawford W. Long Middle School Atlanta, GA

Though Carla McCall hails from a family of educators, she didn’t always have classroom aspirations. She considered a law degree while attending Albany State University for her undergraduate studies but abruptly changed her mind while sitting in a middle school classroom. She was struck by the beauty of a teacher shaping student minds. “That day I changed my major to education,” she says. She went on to get her Master of Education degree from Central Michigan University.

Carla has taught in Atlanta Public Schools for the past decade. She looks at her classroom as a garden and thinks of herself as the gardener. Within a year, her flowers bloom: During the 2013–14 school year, 15 percent of her students entered on grade level. By the end of the year, 78 percent of students met or exceeded expectations on their state math assessment. In 2015, she received the Race to the Top Merit Pay award for ranking in the top 10 percent district-wide in demonstrating student growth.

According to her assistant principal, the key to Carla’s success is her ability to get to know each of the students she serves individually, and with this knowledge, tailor her instruction to make sure all students grow at their own pace. When you’re in her classroom, it’s clear that she's established a strong culture of learning, and it’s normal to see students engaged in peer discussion about math and independent problem-solving. Carla is also exceptional at connecting lesson content to the real world; in one lesson, students interpreted data and scatter plots to learn about the costs of varying post-secondary degrees and their associated earning potentials.

Carla says that what she loves most about being a teacher is not just watching students succeed, but celebrating their ability to surpass what was expected of them. Carla says she lives for the moments when students do something they thought they couldn't. “That will always be my greatest satisfaction.”