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Whole Brain Teaching a Hit for First Grade Teacher

Kaleigh Tucker is known for having a loud class at Winterville Charter Academy, but it’s not because her first grade students are misbehaving.
Tucker uses whole brain teaching methods to engage all parts of their minds, making sure they are touching, moving, and talking. It helps them remember concepts during their formative years.

Tucker with her class.

“Whole brain teaching has really been transformative for my teaching practices,” Tucker said. “I think my biggest goal is to create independent students. I want them to be empowered to lead discussions with their peers. I want them to be empowered to make wise choices without having to be told to do those things, so I think those whole brain teaching practices of empowering them to be independent and learn independently is something that sets me apart from the rest of the school.”
One example of whole brain teaching that Tucker uses is a structure called “the magic circle.” While introducing a topic she signals that mirrors are on, prompting students to copy her words, hand gestures, and emotions. After some repetitions, the mirrors go off and they teach their partner the new skill.

Tucker with her class.

“It minimizes my talking as often as possible,” Tucker said. “I’ve learned the more I talk, the more kids I lose, and so I keep them talking. I really try to empower them to have more of a meaningful position in their learning rather than just sitting at a desk and listening to me talk all day.”
Her methods are getting results. She was named teacher of the year by her peers last year and helped 88% of her class meet or exceed growth in their oral reading fluency by tapping into the science of reading. Switching from leveled readers, which Tucker said are more useful to students who have learned to read, to decodable readers, which help them match a sound to a written representation, has helped in mapping out words. She also has had students use sand trays to write words instead of pencils.

Tucker with her class.

“I’ve been able to carry a lot of those behavior strategies into this year,” she said. “We’ve started the year off strong and we’re continuing to push through and rock it out.”
Tucker was born and raised in nearby Greenville and was drawn to Winterville and National Heritage Academies (NHA) because of its emphasis on Moral Focus virtues. She has enjoyed seeing the similarities and differences when teaching different siblings and values the trust families place in the staff that keeps them coming back each year.
“She is heavily committed to relational building and whole brain teaching. It’s a smooth transition into our behave with care, philosophy, and kids’ hearts,” said Principal Stacey Ryan. “Mrs. Tucker is an even, research-driven, dedicated professional who takes much time and consideration in her parent relational building and her individualized teaching efforts.”

Keep up the excellent work, Mrs. Tucker!

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About Winterville Charter Academy:
Winterville Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Winterville, North Carolina, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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