‘Extra, in a good way,’ Edenton-Chowan teacher finds new ways to reach students

EDENTON, N.C. (WAVY) — When LeAnn Nixon says “Hocus Pocus” to her classroom of second graders at White Oak Elementary, they respond in unison: “everybody focus.”

While getting a second grader to focus is no easy feat, when 10 On Your Side visited Nixon’s classroom we saw firsthand how hard she tries to get everyone on the same page.

The first thing one notices is that in her classroom, there are a variety of seating options. Not everyone is in desks with tiny chairs with cut tennis balls on the end anymore. There are stools, upside-down milk crates with colored cushions on top and even stools that intentionally wabble.

“Kids learn best if they have a choice,” Nixon, 41, said.

Her classroom also has a breadth of technology, on top of the iPads all students have in the school.

“We have Makey Makey, we have Oxobot we have Dash because that is what the whole world is coming to,” Nixon said.

However, what her students don’t know is how much time Nixon, who has two kids of her own, spends trying to get new technology for the classroom.

In 2018 she was awarded a $4,500 grant from CenturyLink’s Clarke M. Williams Teachers and Technology to help acquire new digital technology. Recently she used Donors Choose, a crowd fundraising site for schools that serve low-income communities, to help obtain Scholastic News.

“She’s very innovative, she comes up with amazing ideas she shares with her teams,” said Michelle Newsome, principal at White Oak Elementary.

She even spends her “vacation time” working to help better teach her students.

Last summer, Nixon was named one of 22 Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership at N.C. State University. She spent her time partnering with the Chowan County Farm Bureau to create an “Ag-Mag” to introduce students to one of the largest industries in their community: peanut farming.

She went out to the farms for days on end, talking to those nuts about nuts and taking photos.

“We often joke with her and say she’s extra. She’s sort of extra … in a good way,” Newsome said.

Nixon said she goes out of her way to write grants and find new opportunities because she feels public schools are underfunded.

“Because education, we don’t get the money we should,” Nixon said.

Next, Nixon who initially thought she might be a school nurse is off to get her master’s. She hopes to eventually take a job as a media specialist to help all teachers incorporate new technology in the classroom.

Through technology, she has seen students who haven’t learned successfully through more traditional means, finally feel confident.

“When that light bulb comes on and you see that they understand something. ‘This is my favorite day ever,’ That’s the part that I love,” Nixon said.