WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — If you watch Casey Riffe’s second-grade classroom it may resemble a bee hive. There are buzzing conversations happening in all four corners of her classroom.
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Casey has been teaching for 15 years at Garden Grove Elementary in Winter Haven. She knows the value of getting students out of their desks and using the notes on her walls as learning stations.
“I usually have cure cards around the room where they can go to talk to their learning partner,” she tells me. “They are not just sitting around and doing work at their desks. They are actively engaged in learning.”
Two of her 8 year old students are working on similes. I ask them to explain to me what they are doing.
“We are trying to find words that are almost the same thing. It’s kind of a comparison, like somebody is as smart as an elephant, or is cunny as a fox, or as quick as lightning.”
They are using picture cards on the wall and writing down their answers on their note pads. Casey has been using that learning tool for years and says it really works well. But Casey is not afraid to mix things up if she things it will increasing the learning experience or make it more interesting for her as a teacher.
“She likes to do things that engage the children,” says Debbie Compton, principal at Garden Grove Elementary. “She does so many different things that make her students want to learn whether it’s by themselves or in a group setting.”
Casey’s greatest joy comes from what teachers call that "light bulb moment."
“That’s one of those exciting things when you see that light bulb go off and how quickly they start to build on that from there, They come in barely reading and then by the end of the year they’ve progress to the third grade level.”
Like most of our nominees Ms. Riffe is quick to acknowledge her peers.
“It’s great to be nominated but it’s hard to accept because I work with so many awesome teachers who all deserve to be A+ Teachers,” she says almost blushing at the attention.
That’s probably true but in these students’ eyes Ms. Riffe is the best. And we certainly agree.