Step into Stephanie Whetstone’s fifth-grade classroom at Bains Elementary School in Louisiana’s West Feliciana Parish and you’ll find students spread out on the floor, balancing on stability balls or working at standing desks while Whetstone teaches a small group at her horseshoe-shaped table. Whetstone leaves no student behind in her science and math lessons, using a combination of small groups, individualized instruction and common formative assessments. That’s how she identifies students in need, diagnoses the misunderstanding and helps them meet their targets. Bains is a Leader in Me Lighthouse School, with building school culture centered around the program’s “Seven Habits of Happy Kids.” An early adopter, Whetstone embraces these habits and reinforces them in her classroom. Her students take responsibility for their learning and behavior, and they understand her expectations. Peer instruction plays a large part in Whetstone’s classroom, and she insists that students learn how to teach and learn from each other. Her methods work: Under Whetstone’s guidance, students’ scores on Louisiana’s LEAP (Louisiana Educational Assessment Program) tests rose from 75.3 to 94.8 in math and from 77.3 to 87.9 in science.
Whetstone is the Key Teacher for fifth grade and has served on the data team, Field Day committee, DIBELS testing team, Lighthouse team, Think Tank, and student-led achievement action team. She tutors students after school, leads summer remediation programs, mentors novice teachers, and has been the Teacher Leader Representative for the Louisiana Department of Education. Whetstone and her teaching partner piloted student-led conferences with their students; they were so successful that every Bains student now leads at least one conference each year. To make her colleagues’ adoption of the process easier, Whetstone built a sample student binder and filmed her own conferences as well as shared her tips on planning, conducting and evaluating the conference process with the faculty. When parents weren’t able to attend, Whetstone brought in a teacher, counselor or administrator to participate.
Parents know Whetstone will keep them up to date on their students’ progress and welcome her frequent communications. She views them as partners in their children’s learning. When the school adopted Eureka Math, Whetstone took the initiative in helping parents understand the new curriculum. She created guides and study sheets, then led a Eureka Parent Night to walk them through a lesson so they would be able to support their children at home. Students know they can count on Whetstone as both a teacher and cheerleader. She attends their flag football games and writes individualized notes to students for every holiday, highlighting their strengths and telling them she believes in them. Most important, Whetstone tells her students she knows they will succeed; for her, leadership skills and academics go hand in hand.
Whetstone earned a bachelor’s in humanities and social sciences from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2007.