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Teacher sticks with old ways, gets high scores

By Maggie Blackwell

For the Salisbury Post

SALISBURY — John Galloway’s classroom at Hurley Elementary School is a throwback to the 1960s.

Printed maps hang on the walls.

A bookshelf holds not one but two sets of encyclopedias, one set from 1954, the other from 1976.

A turntable plays music on LPs including “Multiplication Rock.”

Galloway uses a film projector — not a laptop, a DVD player, or even a VHS player. He doesn’t allow the use of calculators; students must be adept at adding and subtracting on scratch paper.

“I love being old-school because, these days, the brain doesn’t have to work. A lot of times, they don’t have to use their minds. I want them to have those skills.”

His students scored among the highest in Rowan-Salisbury Schools and the state on end-of-grade tests last spring.

“I go a different route with the old-school tools,” Galloway says. “My mom loved retro music: Motown, British invasion. In college, our professors told us to think differently to reach the kids. When I was growing up, we had encyclopedias in the home, and I loved them. When I had questions, my mom would tell me, ‘Go find it and figure it out.’”

He scavenges his retro tools on eBay and at local thrift shops.

His students from last year, the ones who scored so well, seem to adore him.

“He pushed us to learn,” says Shtaviah McCluney.

“He’s intelligent and funny,” says Ren Blankenship.

“He’s strict,” says Elijah Davidson.

“He was hard on us, in a good way,” Kimron Kelly says.

“He’s funny and he pushed us to where we made so much growth,” says Ashlyn Stewart.

“He wanted us to learn, no matter what it would take,” says Josiah Johnson.

“He’s nice and very smart,” Kelvin Lovelace says.

“More than half the class are not used to doing well on the test,” Galloway says, “but did well this time.”

The statistics bear him out. EOG testing is scored on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest grade. On the math test, two of Galloway’s students made a 1 in third grade and improved to a 4 in fourth grade. One went from 2 to 5. Others made similar growth.

Kimron understands what all this means. “We made growth. On our EOG, everybody made growth and got higher than we were in third grade.”

Galloway’s students scored first in math EOGs and second in English language arts among all Rowan-Salisbury Schools students. They came in among the top percentage among the state ratings, as well, although the state does not release specific rankings.

Other teachers at Hurley placed in the top tier, as well. Kathi Majors was 10th place in the district in language arts in third grade; Jillian Kniffen, 17th place in third grade; Marisa Lentz, 20th place in third grade; and Amy Peeler, sixth place in fifth grade.

“I didn’t feel that good about myself in math before,” says Kelvin Lovelace. “Last year, I made more growth by working hard. I listened and followed directions. Now I feel I’m a good student.”

“They knew we were a family and we have to help each other out,” Galloway says. “They knew we are only as strong as our weakest link. They didn’t understand that at first, but they picked up and realized we were looked on as a group. If anyone was falling behind, they would encourage him.”

“I was an encourager,” Josiah says.

“Yes, you were,” Galloway replies with a smile.

Galloway says last year was a challenge for a number of reasons. Class sizes were larger, he says, with all the fourth-grade teachers having 28 students.

As a Title 1 school, Hurley has its share of poverty.

“We have resources here at Hurley, but at the end of the day, it’s up to the teacher how he’s going to handle it. At the first of the year, it was rough — pretty rough. I was wondering, ‘How are we going to make it?’ As they started to perform well, though, their self-esteem rose, and their behavior improved accordingly.

“The first few days of school, they looked at my record player and asked, ‘Mr. Galloway, what is that?’ They loved ‘Multiplication Rock’ and could sing all the songs by the end of the year. They loved the filmstrips. They told me, ‘You’re old-school.’

“They liked the old pictures in my encyclopedias. That was one thing I was able to use to capture their attention. They were so stimulated. We were able to captivate their interest.”

Josiah Johnson agrees.

“At the beginning of the year, I didn’t know anything was different, but in the middle and the end, I realized we were doing more than we had ever before,” he says.

Galloway sometimes visited students’ homes to talk with parents.

“Sometimes if they were slacking, I’d show up at the front door. When I made the home visits, the mom said, ‘Now I know you want to get your hands dirty because you took the time to come to our house. We’ve never had a teacher come to our house to talk about good things and how we can help him succeed.’”

“I liked how we did multiplying and dividing,” Ashlyn Stewart says. “We did the encyclopedias in reading.”

Students worked hard in other subjects, too, memorizing all 100 counties of North Carolina, even locating all 100 on a blank state map. They also learned state capitals.

Galloway proudly pulls out a thick scrapbook.

“The students completed a project where they found something for each letter of the alphabet that relates to North Carolina.”

The scrapbook bulges with pictures of lighthouses, Krispy Kreme and NASCAR.

“We learned about slang,” Josiah says.

Elijah joins in. “Did you know ‘finnda’ isn’t a word?”

“Yes,” Josiah says. “Now we say, ‘I’m about to — ‘ instead of ‘I’m finnda.’”

Teachers have an incentive for their students to do well on the tests. The top 25 percent in the state get a bonus in elementary math and reading. The top 25 percent in the local district get a bonus, as well. Altogether, Galloway made a substantial bonus. He first held a celebration for the kids, then put the rest in the bank.

“I hope to travel this summer,” he says.

Galloway, 34, started in Guilford County and lived to Mecklenburg County before moving to Rowan County.

“Moving to RSS was the best decision I could have made. It’s much more a family environment. The superintendent comes in and knows all of us by first name. She talks to the kids. The administration will go out of their way to get us resources and help. That’s one thing I love about this district that I didn’t see in other districts — it’s a family environment.”

While many teachers aspire to move into administration, Galloway says he’ll stay where he is.

“I’ll probably retire in the classroom. I love working with the kids, especially the kids with higher needs. There is nothing else I’d rather do in education. A lot of people move up because of the money, but I know where I belong — with the kids.”

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