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‘Outside the box’ teaching key to North’s Stewart

February 12, 2020
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Kaleigh Stewart, a North Fort Myers High School teacher of 9th and 10th-grade English, is among this year's Golden Apple finalists.

"I am pretty proud of myself. It's quite an accomplishment. There are a million other people who also deserve it, so I'm proud of where I am," Stewart said.

Stewart, who also was a finalist last year, said she was more surprised this year than last.

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Kaleigh Stewart

"I thought that getting it once was amazing. I felt so lucky that I didn't expect to get that lucky again," Stewart said. "I'm super exited to represent North."

Stewart moved from the Philadelphia area to Florida in 2013 to start her teaching career, first in Hendry County, then to Lee County three years ago, when she started teaching at North.

In the three years she has been there, she was a Teacher of Distinction her first year, and a Golden Apple finalist the last two years.

Stewart said the secret to her success is by keeping her students engaged by always challenging them to create and to be committed to and caring about the students' success.

"Anyone can go into a classroom and pass out worksheet and open textbooks and have them answer some questions. If I'm a student, I wouldn't want to be doing that," Stewart said. "I want to be moving and going outside and creating things."

Stewart gave an example of teaching her students about the central idea of text. She had the students pick central ideas out of a hat and in groups had to come up with a skit, commercial or song that incorporated that idea.

"We went outside so they can spread out, which is just nice to do sometimes instead of the confines of a 400-square foot cement room," Stewart said.

Principal Debbie Diggs said she made an incredible hire three years ago in Stewart. She loves her creativity and how she engages and motivates kids

"I love her energy and when I saw her, I knew I had to have her because of her energy and positivity," Diggs said. "She is challenged with finding ways to make it exciting for all kids by interacting. She is definitely Golden Apple material."

Stewart said she felt like a bit of a crazy person to apply again, considering she is 7-1/2 months pregnant, with the baby due around the time of the announcement of the winner.

But seeing as this is the teachers equivalent of the Academy Award, she said she wants to win it for her kids because they did it together.

"They're saying when the observer comes in that they have this. It feels like a team effort. I want to make them proud and win it for them," Stewart said. "It is a career goal of mine to say we've done this."



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