The Mobile Classroom
Brittany Harris (pictured), is improving literacy rates and math scores of children in the Chattanooga, Tenn., area by bringing the lessons to their doorsteps via her mobile classroom called The Passage.
As a third-grade teacher, Harris noticed students weren’t reaching benchmark achievement levels, so she brainstormed how to teach them in a new way.
Her answer came in the form of a small bus, purchased with her own money, which she transformed into an interactive classroom complete with computers, a library and even a robot.
“Transportation was a challenge for some of the students, so I thought I would make it mobile and meet them at their front door,” Harris said. “God said, ‘You buy the bus, and I will supply you with everything else.’ I listened to God’s word and he provided the support to make everything come into fruition.”
Harris and fellow teacher volunteer, Colleen Ryan, drive The Passage to students’ homes on Saturdays. Kindergarten through fifth-grade students enrolled in the four-week program receive 30-minute literacy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) lessons on the bus with their parents. Parents receive a resource notebook with strategies they can use throughout the school year to help their children excel.
Since the program began in 2016, 75 percent of the students have seen growth in their literacy rates, 80 percent of children in the program have seen their math scores increase and 85 percent of students have shown an increase in positive behavior.
Harris said her program is unique because she not only involves the parents, but shows them the steps involved in solving problems or questions students might receive in class.
“Parents are their first teachers, so I wanted to reach out to the parents,” she said.
Harris explained that parents often try to teach children the same strategies they learned in school, however, students need to learn the new strategies because those are the methods on standardized tests. For example, Harris said, she taught an engineer a new method to find the equivalency of fractions. He was then able to teach his daughter that method, rather than the method he learned in school.
“He had that ‘Aha’ moment,” Harris said.
The Passage has received national recognition. The program was featured on The Ellen Show, where Harris received a donation of $10,000. Harris was also recently featured on radio and television star Steve Harvey’s talk show where she received a donation of $5,000.
Harris recently received a promotion and is now an instructional coach, guiding other teachers in the district on instruction methods and delivery of lessons. She hopes to expand The Passage and eventually acquire additional buses to serve more students in the area.
Donations can be made on The Passage website at thepassage423.org.
— Cynthia Yeldell Anderson