posted Sep 13, 2017, 10:05 AM by AMANDA THATTANAKHAM

A typical day for Brittany Berry, EAST facility teacher at Helen Tyson Middle School, includes helping students screen print t-shirts to raise money for hurricane relief programs, creating apps for their school and community and interviewing for the opportunity to be named Arkansas Teacher of the Year.

EAST stands for Environmental and Spatial Technology. It is a blend between service learning and applied technology education. Students have to identify a problem in the local community and then create a plan of action on how to address the problem to help solve it using technology resources available in the EAST classroom.

“EAST empowers the students to be change makers in their community and to know that they can play just as much of a role as adults can in improving their school, city, or state,” Berry said.

Students learn how to collaborate with a group, learn how to organize, create goals and phases to their project, and hold themselves accountable. They learn public speaking and they work with a variety of community partners.

“For individual students, [EAST] gives them the flexibility to explore different interests and to have exposure to a lot of different opportunities and resources that they may know nothing about,” Berry said.

The EAST students have utilized their classroom tools such as videography, photography, drone mapping, creating apps for mobile use, and 3D printing technology in order to better serve their school and community. With the guidance of Berry, students are currently learning audio recording techniques to create audiobooks in the library for Language Academy students.

“I get to learn alongside the kids, we get to have a real impact in our school and the wider community and it provides a lot of opportunities not only for me to help change our students lives, but help my students make a change in other people’s lives,” Berry said.

Berry’s passion for teaching and her students has not gone unnoticed. Berry was awarded Helen Tyson’s Teacher of the Year, then was named Teacher of the Year for the Springdale School District. Her application then got forwarded to the Arkansas Department of Education where she was chosen as the Northwest Arkansas Co-Op Regional winner.

“I wanted to benefit somebody that I could see daily and have a bigger impact on their lives, so what else to do besides education,” Berry said.

Out of the 13 educational co-ops, Berry has been chosen as one of four finalists for Arkansas Teacher of the Year.

“The reason I do what I do right now is I think now more than ever our world needs a bunch of students who not only feel like they should play a part in making their community a better place but have the capacity to understand that every one of them has a unique skill or talent that can not only benefit them and make other people’s lives better,” Berry said.

The teacher that is awarded Arkansas Teacher of the Year will be an honorary member of the Arkansas Department of Education. The winner is required to take off a year from teaching in order to attend meetings and speak to other teachers in Arkansas.

“I like to support and mentor other teachers. I think EAST is a great platform for showing other people that public education can be engaging and innovating. Schools can be adaptive and provide individualized learning for every single student. I wanted to benefit somebody that I could see daily and have a big impact on their lives, so what else to do but education,” Berry said.