Atlanta Families’ Award for Excellence: Garden Hills Elementary Boasts Two Winners

Teaching first grade inspired Mrs. Barnes to ignite a love for literacy throughout her school.  For the past three years, she has challenged all Garden Hills students to read one million words during the school year. Since her challenge began, each year an average of 40 students have achieved this goal, on every grade level – even kindergarten!

Congratulations Ms. Barnes!

 Mrs. Barnes’ Ready to Read project is recognized as one of this year’s Atlanta Families’ Award for Excellence winners.

With the proceeds from the award, she plans to purchase approximately 300 hardbound books (a mix of fiction and non-fiction) to augment the school’s selection for readers in the lower reading range, in its accelerated reader motivation for reading program.  She also plans to arrange for a rolling cart to house the books so they can be shared more easily. The cart will allow books to be rolled from class to class throughout the day and used by all first graders.

“Over the years I have noticed a need for appropriate reading materials for students who enter first grade below a first-grade reading level,” said Mrs. Barnes.  “It is a project that I would like to implement in all first grade classes at our school.”

Congratulations Ms. Carlson!

Mrs. Barnes began her teaching career through the Urban Alternative Preparation Program at Georgia State University. Since joining the Atlanta Public School system in 2000, she has spent the last ten years teaching first grade at Garden Hills.

This is Katie Carlson’s seventh year of teaching and her second year at Garden Hills.  It was her Learning Gardens project that earned recognition as one of this year’s Atlanta Families’ Award for Excellence winners.

“The mission of the Learning Gardens Project is to help Garden Hills Elementary create, sustain, and use onsite gardens through plant-based learning, field trips, outdoor garden use, and plant activities in the classroom,” said Ms. Carlson.  “In the process, students participate in activities that increase science knowledge, sharpen math skills, spur literacy and support lessons in geography, writing and social studies.”

In her short time working for Atlanta Public Schools, Katie has grown tremendously as an educator. She has participated in multiple professional development opportunities including Junior Great Books, Category 1 International Baccalaureate, and various other early literacy trainings.

Ms. Carlson has worked with The Captain Planet Foundation, PTA, students and staff to create learning gardens at Garden Hills.  For this work, she also has won a two-year grant from the Captain Planet Foundation, various Donors Choose grants and a Target Field Trip grant.

After earning her Bachelor’s degree from Ball State University, Ms. Carlson began her teaching career at Dresden Elementary in DeKalb County Schools, and served as secretary and co-president of the PTA board.  Congratulations to both teachers and the entire Garden Hills family.




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