On November 4, Mr. Rodney Malone was awarded the Missouri Charter School Teacher of the Year award at the
Missouri Charter Public School Association’s 2016 Charter School Conference.
Mr. Malone is an exceptional, educational leader at Lift For Life Academy not only because of his dedication to instructing our teachers in the best practices for the classroom, but also because of the infectious energy and enthusiasm he brings to the Academy, inside and outside of his classroom.
“No matter the course, Mr. Malone brings a level of excitement and energy to the learning,” said LFLA high school principal, David LeMay. “Kids respond to his enthusiasm by challenging themselves to think about the content in ways that they did not believe possible. Mr. Malone accomplishes this by being committed to clear standards and learning outcomes. One of the great parts of Mr. Malone’s classroom is that he always knows where the students are in their learning. When students leave Mr. Malone’s classroom, there is doubt about what have been truly learned.”
While Mr. Malone leaves a profound impact on students in the classroom, he also leaves a resounding mark on the way teachers at LFLA lead their classrooms. When Malone began teaching at LFLA in 2009, he was the only high school social studies teacher, and built the entire curriculum of the social studies department. Since then, he has chaired the social studies department, and recently, he has accepted the role of instructional coach for our high school teachers, in addition to teaching two civics courses and a College History class.
“Mr. Malone is a teacher leader,” said David LeMay. “For the past six years, Mr. Malone has served as the social studies department chair. He has worked collaboratively with colleagues to revise and write curriculum. He has served as a mentor to several teachers and taught them how to apply standards-based instruction in their classroom. Perhaps most impressively, Mr. Malone has served as our lead Teach Like a Champion facilitator. As part of this work, Mr. Malone has led professional development in-services and coached teachers in several of the best practices identified in Doug Lemov’s book. His role as a teacher leader has helped to shift and strengthen our classroom cultures and educational environment as a whole.”
When Malone compared being a leader for teachers to being a leader for students, he focused on the similarities much more than the differences.
“Teachers are people just like students are people,” said Mr. Malone. “Fundamentally, motivating teachers to lead a classroom is no different that motivating a classroom of students. It’s about tapping into their purpose, goals, engagement and empowerment. But there will always be problems in differentiation. For example, in a high school class, we’ll have students that read four grade-levels apart in the same classroom, so you have to set different goals and standards for each student. It’s the same for teacher. Some are veterans and some are right out of college, so you have to meet the teacher where they are at, learn what they are motivated to do, and challenge them with things they might be struggling with.”
When asked about his greatest accomplishment in his role as instructional coach for high school teachers, Mr. Malone excitedly detailed the introduction of standards-based grading into high school classrooms. Two years ago, this style of teaching was not in any high school classroom, but since taking his new position, Malone has helped at least one classroom in each different discipline adapt to use this different style of grading which evaluates students’ progress along with their achievements. Malone believes that this grading style is much more compatible with the varying educational skills of our students.
More than anything, though, all the students at Lift For Life Academy love Mr. Malone. You just have to ask one to find out.
“I know that Mr. Malone is a great teacher because when I was in his class, I was never bored,” said LFLA senior, Jocelynn. “When a teacher projects excitement about a subject, it makes it so much easier for the students to feel excited about learning that subject. I think a lot of teachers can struggle with remaining excited about what they’re teaching, but Mr. Malone was always getting us hyped up about every lesson.”
However, Mr. Malone isn’t just helping his students build hype for his lessons, but also for their futures.
“Being in Mr. Malone’s class helped me feel confident in pursuing my passion, because I can see his passion for teaching every day,” said Jocelynn. “I want to be a zoologist. Mr. Malone helped me find this goal for myself. I was just going to follow a path that my friends or family wanted for me, but instead, he taught me to discover what I truly want to do and pursue it. He helped me break out of the mold I felt I needed to fit in. The sky is the limit now. I’ve already been accepted to SIUC where I want to study Biology and Zoology.”
Ultimately, Mr. Malone not only stands as an exceptional role model for LFLA students and teachers alike, but he also injects every day with challenges and enthusiasm that makes Lift for Life Academy the vibrant and motivated learning community that it is today.