Our latest Welcome To Sanford Teacher of the Week is Leslie Cottrell, from Greenwood Elementary School. Mrs. Cottrell has served as the school’s AIG specialist since 2017. Prior to her arrival at Greenwood, Mrs. Cottrell taught at West Lee Middle School where she worked with the school district’s AIG coordinators, and at the Montessori School of Sanford for several years before that. Mrs. Cottrell earned recognition as Lee County Schools’ Teacher of the Year for 2018-19.
As an AIG specialist, Mrs. Cottrell doesn’t have a dedicated classroom or set teaching schedule. Instead, she works with students in different grades and different classrooms at various times throughout the school day. As part of her responsibilities, Mrs. Cottrell also helps teachers identify gifted students in their classrooms and meets with parents to discuss the advanced course work those children will be doing.
Mrs. Cottrell describes her responsibilities by noting, “I work with all students in kindergarten through third grade. These students receive ongoing instruction in the Primary Education Thinking Skills (PETS) program, which is specifically designed to enrich and extend their higher order thinking skills. Pupils are usually identified as AIG students at the end of their 3rd grade year, so we have a pull-out AIG program here at Greenwood for identified 4th and 5th graders. These students are taught the value of growth mindset. We tackle research, creative projects, Latin, cursive writing and hands-on math.”
When Mrs. Cottrell arrived at Greenwood, she wanted her students to begin viewing her as the “thinking coach” because that “job description” reflects the approaches she takes to teaching and the variety of subjects she touches. Mrs. Cottrell observes, “We sing songs, but I’m not a music teacher. We create, but I’m not an art teacher. We read books and move our bodies, but I’m not a librarian or P.E. coach. I am there to pull all of these things together along with academic content and shine a light on how they think, and what type of thinking they are good at and how to develop their talents.”