Julie Cypert's Grand Central Station Lab at Sweetwater Middle School was awarded the Spirit of GCS Award for the 2012-2013 school year from the Center for Learning and Development in Waco, TX.
Cypert, who has been teaching for 27 years and was specially trained at the Center for Learning and Development, has been with the GCS program for three years. Grand Central Station (or the Starlite Drive-In) is a program that helps at risk students with their school work. The program teaches students study strategies, how to prioritize their work, and helps students prepare for the Math and Reading sections of the STAAR test.
Cypert and her two aides, Delia DeLeora and Janice Oliver, work individually with sixth, seventh and eighth grade student in a smaller, more intimate classroom setting. Students are also encouraged to come at any time during the school day to get help in any of their subjects. While Math and Reading are the main focus of the GCS program, students can get help in History, Science or any other subject they are struggling in.
Some of the added benefits of the program are that students have the same teachers every year they are in the program. It also creates a collaboration between Cypert and other teachers. "If another teacher, say Mr. Hopple, notices a student having trouble in his class, he can come to me and I, or one of my aide's can work with that student individually and get them back where they need to be," said Cypert.
Students are also rewarded for their efforts and hard work. Tickets are given to students once or twice a week for things such as good behavior, class participation and showing improvement in their studies. Tickets are drawn every Friday and the prizes generally include candy or drinks, but bigger prizes, such as ear buds for mp3 players, are drawn for as well.
The letter Cypert, DeLeora, and Oliver received read, "CONGRATULATIONS! Your Grand Central Station Lab has been chose to receive the Spirit of GCS Award for the 2012-2013 school year."
The Center for Learning and Development recognizes outstanding teachers and administrators who are continuing to support struggling learners using the structure of Grand Central Station with this special award.
"Schools are facing unprecedented difficulties in these tough times and many teachers, including GCS teachers, are wearing many hats throughout the school day. In spite of the many additional duties they may have, they are remaining true to the GCS training they received and using research-based strategies, providing differentiated instruction and hands-on learning opportunities, professional collaboration and building relationships. Many GCS Labs are finding it necessary to tweak the model to fit the needs of the school; however, we recognize that your focus remains on the needs of the struggling students on your campus," the letter went on to read.
"Thank you. Thank you for your attentiveness, your determination and your perseverance! You do not have an easy task before you, but your heart is in this - and you are making a difference in the lives of your students. We appreciate you and all that you do to support the students who face the challenges of learning."
The teachers received a certificate to display in their lab classroom as well as a decal that can be put on their window, door or white board.