Brenda Smith teaches fourth grade math, science, and environmental science at Oil City Elementary Magnet School in Oil City, Louisiana. Five years ago, Oil City Elementary faced dropping enrollment numbers and low performance measures. To address this situation, staff and faculty dedicated their educational focus to an environmental science theme. The entire faculty was trained in PLT. Brenda was instrumental in implementing this plan and organizing staff professional development. New and refresher PLT workshops have been held every year since to follow up on activity use, introduce new materials, and train new faculty. Consequently, the school is one of four PLT-certified schools in Louisiana.
The results speak for themselves. In 2001, before Brenda began using PLT, 38% of her fourth grade students scored in the basic to proficient level on the science portion of the state and national standardized tests, and 62% fell in the unsatisfactory category. In 2005, 4% had reached the advanced level, 63% were considered basic to proficient, and just 33% remained in the unsatisfactory category.
Brenda has taken her PLT training a step further and written and received several grants for her students to participate in a variety of educational and community service projects at the school, local hospital, downtown, and throughout the community. The school grounds now sport three outdoor classrooms, a nature trail, and a Louisiana native tree arboretum. Brenda secured a grant for a pavilion on the shores of Lake Caddo and helped her students design educational kiosks that describe the lake’s history and its value to the environment and community. The pavilion is used by the public, area schools, and her school’s students as a base for conducting water quality tests and other science experiments.
Oil City Elementary School has received several awards in recognition of its improvement, and much of this is due to Brenda and PLT! Most recently the school was one of six to receive New York Fordham University’s “National School Change” award.
Brenda was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2006.