Blog post title and lab equipment

Science Teacher from Jamaica Arranges Class for Student Success

Posted on February 9, 2023 by EPI Admin

Alicea Bigby-Smart designs her classroom for her students’ success. Originally from Jamaica, the science teacher arrived in the USA in 2021 as an Educational Partners International (EPI) program member. At Grier Middle School in Gastonia, North Carolina, she has transformed her class into a space that encourages learning among all of her students.

In one part of the classroom, she has showcased simple machine models created by her students. She has also displayed balloon cars made by her class. Those wheeled wonders, propelled forward by the power of deflating air, provided a fun way to explore Newton’s third law of motion (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction). 

At a cell observation station, microscopes provide students an up-close view of these tiny biological building blocks. Bigby-Smart also finds that allowing students enough space to use the glowing screens of their Chromebooks as electronic lightboxes helps them to trace out diagrams of cellular structures.

Balloon cars lined up in classroom




On the classroom walls, a mission statement hangs alongside anchor charts that summarize course content. Another poster announces the names of “Ms. Smart’s Science Stars”: students who pass tests with 90% scores and above.

It’s also worth mentioning that Bigby-Smart created a “safe space” for a child with autism. She notes that because of it, he has shown tremendous growth. 

Classroom mission statement poster

Of course, expectations of teachers extend beyond a classroom’s walls. Among the responsibilities: communicating with the parents of students. Bigby-Smart shares that the TalkingPoints app has proven a helpful and effective tool in this area.

We love these classroom ideas and Bigby-Smart’s execution of them! They celebrate student accomplishment, provide aspirational goals, remind students of material learned and values to uphold, and encourage hands-on learning. It’s this kind of thoughtful design and planning that has allowed Bigby-Smart to thrive in the USA. Her classroom performance earned her recognition as her school’s employee of the month last February – when she was also praised for her perfect attendance record (extending back to the previous September).

When recognized for those accomplishments on EPI’s internal online forum for teachers, she expressed her gratitude toward her fellow program members. “Thank you, colleagues,” she wrote. “I am really happy to be a part of such a supportive community. I have learned so much!”


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