Success Story

Magnificent Teacher and

a Fine Human Being

By: Kim Underwood
Communications Specialist
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, NC

Latoya Scott believes in taking a hands-on approach to helping her students at Atkins learn. “It’s all about what they are learning, not what I know,” said Scott, who is the chair of the science department at Atkins Academic & Technology High School. “It’s all about them. My role is as a facilitator.”

Students appreciate that. “She is fun,” said freshman Hunter Hill. “It is not a boring class. We don’t just sit around all day. We are always doing activities. We interact.” “We discover what we are trying to learn for ourselves, which helps us remember it better,” said freshman Ethan Austin.

Scott does her best to make the information accessible to all students. They appreciate that, too. “She is very clear,” said sophomore Lorenzo Wilson. “She is very well-spoken. She is friendly and easy to understand. She is at our level.” And, if a test reveals that a student didn’t fully grasp the material, Scott works with the student after school or during lunch to help him or her understand. Then she designs a new test that the student can take. Students appreciate that as well.

“She can make sure that we can pass the test and make sure we have the grades we need,” said sophomore Ryan Horton. Everything that Scott does to ensure that her students are successful prompted Magnet Schools of America to name her Teacher of the Year for her region last year that includes North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.

“She is a magnificent teacher,” said Principal Joe Childers. “She gets really good participation from the kids. It’s really hands on. The kids like that. “The other thing that kids like is she is so genuine. She is such a fine human being in addition to being a magnificent teacher. You put those together and you have a winning combination.”

Scott is a product of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. She started out at Union Cross Elementary School. After the family moved, she went to Forest Park Elementary School. Then it was on to Wiley Middle School and Parkland High School, from which she graduated in 2003.

She did well in school and enjoyed learning. When Scott was in third grade, her older sister, Tukeela, would come home from school and teach her the algebra she had learned that day. In high school, Scott took advanced-placement classes. She was always willing to help other students and was active in a tutoring club in high school. She was also active in sports – track, basketball – and was a choreographer for her dance team.

Scott grew up in a single-parent household. In high school, Scott held a part-time job at the Food Lion on Waughtown Street to help cover such expenses as college applications. Although her older sister went to college later and became a respiratory therapist, Scott was the first in the family to go.

When she enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), she had no plans to become a teacher. She was going to become a nurse. After a while, it sunk in that being a nurse was not the path for her. As she pondered alternatives, she thought about her experiences tutoring others and teaching dance. “That’s when it hit me: ‘I have been teaching.’”

She graduated from UNCG in 2007. Her gifts, she thought, would best serve high school students. “I thought I would be a better fit with high school students and I thought I could give them more.”

She started teaching at Atkins when it had three schools within the school. Doug Gerringer, the principal of the School of Pre-engineering, had been as assistant principal at Parkland when she was there, and he hired her for the School of Pre-engineering. She immediately felt like a puzzle piece that had found its place. “You put me in the puzzle and it was a perfect fit.”

Scott is eager to become the best teacher she can be, and, over the years, she has learned a lot about an approach to teaching called Modeling. “It’s not starting out with a lecture,” she said. Among other things it’s about talking about concepts and having students work together to gather data and come to a consensus.

That approach was clearly on display during an Honors Biology class. Groups of students were working together on whiteboards to create phylogeny trees that showed some of the evolutionary relationships among various animals. When each group was done, the students placed the whiteboards on hooks on the classroom walls so that everyone could talk about them and come to a consensus about the points up for discussion.

Toward the end of a round, Scott would say something such as “Are we good?” to give everyone a chance to say “yes” or for someone to bring up a point that still needed clarification in his or her mind.  

Scott has become so adept at and known for Modeling that, for the past five years, she has been in demand to help other teachers learn the approach. She routinely teaches during the summer at N.C. State University and at James Madison University in Virginia, and she has received invitations to teach as far away as California.

She is quite deserving of being named Teacher of the Year, said assistant principal Araunah James. “She is hard-working and very demanding. She is going to get her students to work and they are going to want to work for her.”

Sonya Rexrode, one of the school’s curriculum coordinators, said that Scott works well with students who are gifted and with students who have special needs. Monta Ervin, who is also a curriculum coordinator, said, “She doesn’t leave a student behind.” Although tutoring during lunch or after school and doing whatever else is necessary to make sure that a student succeeds can take a lot of extra time, Ervin said, Scott willingly does it and students appreciate that. “She has a really good relationship with her kids.” “She is awesome,” Rexrode said.

Posted August 2015