Chris Knox, a fourth grade teacher at Old Kings Elementary School, was surprised last week to receive a $5,000 check from Gannett Media Group, the parent company of the News-Journal, for winning Gannett’s National Amazing Teacher Award for April.
Also last week, Knox learned that he has been nominated for the Florida Council For The Social Studies Teacher of the Year Award.
OKES Assistant Principal Tara Ossler said Knox is truly deserving of both awards.
“I’m extremely proud but not surprised,” she said. “He is a rock star.”
Teaching writing and social studies are his passions in the classroom, Ossler said.
He uses fun and innovative techniques in a way that his students don’t even realize they’re learning.
“I try to infuse a lot of creativity and critical thinking,” he said.
His students build interactive adventure stories on Google Slides. At different points in the stories, the reader can pick one of two paths with each path taking the story in a different direction. The students create story text and illustrations for each slide.
“The requirement is they have to have at least four endings which is a minimum of seven slides,” Knox said. “Most of them go beyond that. I’ve had students go up to 50 slides to make their story go the way they want it.”
As they learn how to build the stories they are also learning basic-level coding.
“A lot of times they figure out how to build some things into it that I haven’t thought of,” Knox said.
I try to infuse a lot of creativity and critical thinking.” — CHRIS KNOX
Knox also teaches social studies in a way that captivates his students’ imagination, Ossler said.
“He has the ability to create a learning environment that’s thought provoking for the students,” she said. “It’s almost like he’s telling a story about an old friend of his that is so real, it sticks with them. He challenges them to examine and question the world around them and to see how the past is connected to the present.”
Knox also uses the site breakoutedu.com, dividing his class into groups to collaborate on escape room-like puzzles where they read clues to try to open locks on a box.
“The clues are all centered around reading standards,” Ossler said. “They are extremely challenging. I was with a group (of students) and I was stumped. Within the activity, he fosters teamwork, letting them know it’s OK to agree and disagree. It’s OK to fail. It builds resilience, which is sometimes lacking in the classroom.”
Knox is also on Old Kings’ textbook review committee and social studies review committee. He’s collaborated with the literacy coach on applying the state’s new rubrics to classroom instruction and scoring student's writing, and he mentors interns and new teachers, Ossler said.
"He's seen as a leader on campus," she said.
Knox has been a teacher in the Flagler County School District since 2004, teaching previously at Bunnell and Rymfire elementary schools. He has been teaching at Old Kings for six years.
He said he plans to incorporate the Gannett award into his travel budget.
“I love to travel,” he said. “I have a trip planned in the summer for eight days in Jordan.”