Meet Nancy Kelly
When third, fourth and fifth-grade scholars enter Nancy Kelly’s classroom after school, they enter a dynamic environment of high expectations, open communication, and hands-on learning in mathematics. She goes beyond the usual worksheets and workbooks, introducing scholars to a new math experience involving fun games that require collaboration and strategy.
Yet for Ms. Kelly, who has been an elementary school teacher for over 20 years, and a BellExcel instructor since 2012, BELL Xcel’s biggest impact boils down to relationships. “To me, the key to learning is really based on relationships. They are connecting with me and I think when children connect with their teacher, they want to do well," she says. During the regular school day, Ms. Kelly teaches fourth-grade math.
During BellXcel’s after-school program, she teaches math to third, fourth and fifth-graders, in separate clusters, enabling her to develop relationships with past, current, and future scholars.
Third-graders are introduced to Ms. Kelly’s expectations and teaching style, which will make their transition into fourth-grade much smoother, and less jittery. “Now, I’m lucky enough to create relationships with 20 children that I wouldn’t know until they walked through the door, short of seeing them in the hallway,” she said. “So, they know me now. They know my style. I feel so blessed to be able to build those relationships a year early.”
This connection is clearly making a positive difference in the classroom. Scholars are willing to take risks, feeling safe to make mistakes and to learn from them, she says. “Third-grade scholars get a head start,” Ms. Kelly says. “If they can come to me next year and be fluent in their multiplication facts, math will be so much easier for them. They will already have these skills in their toolkit, and will be ready to go.”
Ms. Kelly says BellExcel helps fourth grade scholars fine-tune their math skills in the evening, so they are better prepared for the subject matter the next school day. To make the instruction as relevant as possible, she ties classroom learning to BellXcel curriculum. If scholars are working on fractions during the day, she works in fun games like “Fraction Capture” during the school day to expand their learning.
BellXcel scholars become leaders in their classrooms, and stronger partners with their peers who are not part of the BellXcel program. “The kids that go to BellXcel are just a little more prepared than the kids who don't,” she says. “It builds their self-confidence to say, 'I did this and remember doing this, and now I’m ready to help my friend who is seeing it for the first time.'”
BellXcel empowers Ms. Kelly to nurture her relationship with fifth-graders and refine their academic skills one more year. It also empowers the older scholars to help their younger peers. Learning together with younger students creates a symbiotic relationship and sense of community where scholars learn from each other, depending on their individual stage of learning. “They can help the fourth-graders maneuver problems. They have had more exposure.”
While academic improvement is a key focus of the program, Ms. Kelly believes enrichment activities are just as important. “Those life skills of getting along, and working out our troubles. These are the skills that you take beyond the moment,” she says. “Very few jobs are done in isolation. Building that is huge. They don’t just carry that in the BellXcel program, they carry it in their day, in the playground, at home, and elsewhere.”