Bolivia teacher incorporates technology to aid 21st-century learners


BOLIVIA, NC (WWAY) — Riley Higgins enjoys talking with her fourth-grade students about the books they read.

She teaches language arts and social studies at Virginia Williamson Elementary School in Bolivia.

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“I love just coming in and working with my students everyday, and being able to engage and interact with them,” Higgins said.

A graduate of East Carolina University, Higgins has been teaching for three years.

The person who nominated her for WWAY and Mattress and Furniture Liquidators’ “Teacher of the Week’ said her students are learning all their content in creative and engaging ways.

One way they’re doing that is with the aid of technology. During our visit, the students were sitting on the carpet listening to one another present projects in front of a Smartboard.

They had to research a North Carolina city and design a magazine-style article highlighting attributes of that location.

“I love being able to see them research the material we’re learning, being able to dive deeper into it from what they find and take it, and put into these multimedia presentations whether they’re putting it into a book or a magazine, or a paper on it and then sharing it with their classmates,” she said.

When Higgins was a child, she knew she wanted to become a teacher.

“I also had a fifth-grade teacher who made learning fun every time we walked in, every lesson we would sing songs to learn and I just remember thinking I want to be like that when I’m older, I want to make learning fun for kids as well,” she recalled.

Higgins not only makes lessons fun, but also inspires her students to use what they’ve learned to make a difference.

Recently, she taught her students about the endangered Red Wolf population in northeastern North Carolina.  After learning about the animals’ plight, Higgins’ students were moved to take action.

“They were able to write to the federal judge explaining why it was so important that those Red Wolves did not go extinct and how it would change the ecosystem of North Carolina if they did,” she said.

During a lesson about the disappearance of the first English settlement, Higgins used it as a way to remind her students that there’s history yet to be written.

“We just got learning about the lost colony of Roanoke Island, and they’re still studying and trying to figure out what happened,” she said. “Its so much fun to tell them you all have these tools in front of you. You go find out what you can, research, maybe you can grow up, go to college and see what happened to the colony of Roanoke Island, where did they go? You could solve that mystery.”

Because of the innovation she uses to engage students in her classes, we’re recognizing her as WWAY and Mattress and Furniture Liquidators’ “Teacher of the Week.”

“I’m just very proud that Ms. Higgins is the Teacher of the Week, she is so very deserving of it,” said Helen Otto, principal of Virginia Williamson Elementary School. “She’s very dedicated and she makes learning fun as you can see through the project learning she does with the children and it makes it very purposeful.”

So what does Higgins think about our surprise visit and the $100 Staples gift card she received?

“It feels awesome,” Higgins said. “I feel honored to have been mentioned, to have been chosen.”

Ultimately, Higgins says seeing her students get excited about reading and learning brings her the most joy.

“Its just very rewarding to come in everyday and to watch them to want to get to work on whatever they’re working on in class and to watch them grow in what they’re learning and watch them being challenged but meeting your expectations and exceeding your expectations rather than just saying ‘Its too hard, I can’t do it,'” Higgins said.

Because of her passion for incorporating technology to aid these 21st-century learners, we’re proud to recognize Higgins as our “Teacher of the Week.”

If you would like to nominate a teacher who’s making an impact in the classroom, click here to send us your nomination.