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PEP Teacher Recognized for Student Engagement
PEP Teacher Recognized for Student Engagement
Posted on 09/21/2021
Progressive Education Program (PEP) teacher Alyson Smith has been named The Arc of Buncombe County’s Teacher of the Year.By Tim Reaves
BCS Communications Department

Progressive Education Program (PEP) teacher Alyson Smith has been named The Arc of Buncombe County’s Teacher of the Year.

The Arc, which serves children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, recognized Ms. Smith for her high expectations, rigorous curriculum, and relationship-building skills. During the remote learning periods last year, Ms. Smith rose to a unique set of challenges, using a green screen to create immersive, visually stimulating lessons for her PEP students at William W. Estes Elementary School.

“At first we didn’t know if we could make it work, because we’re so hands on,” she said. “But we all homed in on their interests. And the green screen really helped me make the lessons more engaging. We used a lot of puns and got silly together. I was underwater, or in a cartoon scene, or pulling apples out of a tree.”

Ms. Smith talks to a student.Ms. Smith prioritized getting to know students and their families through one-on-one virtual sessions. Parents and guardians shared student likes and interests, and Ms. Smith incorporated those into her lessons, leading to lots of breakthroughs.

“Students were taught with the same level of engagement and rigor as they would have been had they been attending school face to face,” said Ms. Stacey Kingsley, program specialist at Estes who nominated Ms. Smith for the award. “She stayed connected with all her students and never let their education or her relationships with them suffer.”

Ms. Smith is a graduate of T.C. Roberson High School and Appalachian State University. In high school, she served as a peer tutor in the PEP classrooms and fell in love with the program. She studied special education in college and had an internship placement in an elementary classroom.

“That’s what I decided to pursue,” she said. “I want to show these kids their potential. I want to show them that they’re meaningful and talented. I love to see them realize that about themselves and celebrate their growth. PEP is a special place, that’s for sure. We have a lot of people who really care about the kids. It’s a wonderful community.”

This video clip is an example of Ms. Smith's immersive use of a green screen to teach her students.

Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin,, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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