By Inesha Jackson
Koby Boone, a Canton Elementary first- and third-grade teacher, is excited to get students engaged in her new reading initiative, the BeYOUnique project, after receiving a grant from the Junior Auxiliary of Madison County.
“My number one goal for my students is that they always remember that they can do so many things in life. We strive every day to become better students, better readers, better teachers, and better people. We eliminate the words ‘I can’t’ from my classroom and replace them with ‘I will,’” Boone said.
Boone is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with two bachelor’s degrees - one in speech-language pathology and the other in elementary education. Before completing her elementary education degree and endorsement in special education, she worked as a speech therapist. Boone has also spent 18 months in Mexico as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, where she served others and learned to speak fluently in Spanish.
“Some of my major accomplishments as an educator have been winning three grants for my students and Canton Elementary. These have included a reading program and flexible seating to help all students. Another accomplishment - and the one dearest to my heart - has been seeing the growth and accomplishments of my students. To see my students improving a grade level or more in reading, learning how to write their names without assistance, overcoming physical challenges, and developing self-confidence have been rewarding in itself,” Boone said.
The Junior Auxiliary of Madison County provides for the needs of schools in the Madison County area through their mini-grant program. One can receive a grant for up to $500. Applicants for the grant must be able to provide the number of children that will be reached, the purpose of the grant, and how it works within the classroom. Boone’s BeYOUnique project will support at least 60 third graders at Canton Elementary by motivating students to improve their reading skills and to recognize how unique it is to be different. The project is designed to reach students from all backgrounds. It is designed to get students excited about reading about who they are and accepting that being unique is beautiful.
“Books are one of the few places where children may meet people like or unlike themselves. The BeYOUnique project opens doors to a diverse classroom, which can and will allow students the ability to find out more about who they are and where they come from. It will also show them how and even why it is possible to accept others who are different from them-YOUniquely different,” Boone said.
At Canton Elementary, Boone is known for making the learning environment fun for her students by creating new and innovative ways for students to excel.
“Learning can always be fun. It doesn’t have to be worksheets and books all the time. We listen to songs/raps about the standards we are learning. We apply movement to remember how to find character traits or how to find the point of view in a text. During review week, we created a carnival-themed week of learning. The students earned tickets by using strategies in answering questions, helping others, and meeting personal goals and then using those tickets to play carnival games,” Boone said. She is planning many more fun activities to get students engaged in learning, such as a Winter Olympics-themed learning initiative.
“Curiosity is one of the most inspiring characteristics of our students. They love to gather as much information as possible. . .Having the Be YOUnique project will help teachers value unique aspects that make each student different, which allows them to embrace the differences in the classroom. This, in turn, creates a positive learning outcome that can be created by having different and divergent perspectives,” Boone said.