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Oklahoma's Putnam City schools chooses an eager learner and educator as its top teacher

BY STEVE LINDLEY Published: March 14, 2013

Jeni James, who teaches gifted and talented students at Central Elementary School, has been named Putnam City schools' teacher of the year.

“I have the good fortune and pleasure of teaching with amazing teachers throughout the district who have inspired me to strive for excellence in all that I do. I'm incredibly honored to receive this award,” James said.

James is a graduate of Putnam City schools and is in her 24th year of teaching in the district. She said her career is exactly what she thought it would be years ago when she was a student.

“There was never any question in my mind that school would be my future. I was always a student who loved learning, loved creating and loved being part of a culture of knowledge. Things have not changed. I am still thirsty for knowledge and passionate about sharing what I know with those around me,” James said.

James' students are thirsty for knowledge as well, a thirst she quenches through the use of technology.

Her students explore the world of making video games and, in the process, learn logic, creative thinking and problem-solving skills while polishing their reading and math abilities. Students play video games in which they create superhero avatars and then undertake quests — code for completing classroom assignments — to increase their hero's powers and earn badges for themselves.

James uses the “flipped classroom” model of instruction in which she creates video tutorials for students to watch at home or during transition times at school. Class time can then be spent working closely with students and answering their questions to ensure they understand and can apply concepts.

James uses a Web-based program known as Edmodo that allows students to remain in contact with her even when they are at home. Students are able to review lessons, turn in assignments and receive help as they need it.

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