These Teachers Push Past the Standard!


Chinaza Onungwa, Editor

Unconventional teaching methods in schools are a rarity. Going above and beyond to reinvent the ordinary is nothing but an admirable feat. Fortunately, Sunnyvale ISD has had the pleasure of introducing teachers, who have introduced alternative ways of teaching its students.

English teacher Kristin Williams did just that. Williams completely transformed the way Sunnyvale High School’s English Department taught vocabulary to its students. She proposed that instead of giving students a few words to learn and having a quick quiz or test over it, the students would have to apply the vocabulary in their daily lives via oral usage.

“In another school district [that I taught at], I realized that the students needed to improve their vocabulary, but the traditional way of doing it was not working… I tried this one year and the results were so vastly different. I saw true improvement in vocabulary, and so, I kept doing it.”

She continued to see the same impact year after year. Mrs. Williams joked about students hating the idea at first, but later in the year finding it quite useful both during time outside of school and on the SAT.

“I was really nervous because I thought it was going to be hard, but after the first quarter, once you get into the swing of things, you just end up using those words on a daily basis,” junior Precious Nweke said.

The ‘flipped classroom’ approach was another change that was new to Sunnyvale when Algebra teacher Kelsey Adams appeared four years ago. The key concept of a ‘flipped classroom’ is to reverse the standard approach to teaching. Instruction is obtained at home before classes with teacher-created videos and interactive courses.

“The data shows that student engagement goes up, student satisfaction goes up. In general, there’s much more confidence in students and their abilities,” Mrs. Adams said.

Because the ‘flipped classroom’ strategy was so different from what parents, students, and other teachers experienced from traditional schooling, the challenge of trying to get people invested was self-evident. When the benefits were fully grasped, however, it proved as a good tool for the students.

“We always have the videos to use. Like if you don’t understand something, you can just watch [the lesson] again. It also makes it easier to ask questions,” freshman Esther George said.

Daniel Gambill, the high school Theatre teacher, also experimented with unorthodox classroom models. Being a new addition to Sunnyvale, this Theatre director caught his students off guard with a unique way to run the class. He formed his department around a student-run concept of people finding their best talents in leading in certain aspects and learning in others.

“The ability to be led is just as important as the ability to lead. You know, while there are fewer leaders that we need, you have to know when it’s your time to lead,” Mr. Gambill said.

He studied the way people interacted with one another, by forming innate inner circles, and found that how people ‘naturally work’ is what naturally works. Of course, with many other things, people are reluctant to changes in the status quo. That usually seems to be the main issue with implementing alternative teaching methods. Luckily, in this case, a change would’ve been for the best.

“Since he lets the students be responsible for themselves, it teaches us responsibility, and lets us learn [things] at our [personal] speed… It makes it a lot easier to get things done,” senior Lili Anthony said.