Lafayette High School English teacher Sherri McPherson was on a Hollywood set, watching her work in the classroom honored at a live show Sept. 11 featuring A-list celebrities and broadcast simultaneously by all four major networks.
Being showcased along with the likes of Stephen Colbert, Justin Bieber, Scarlett Johansson, and Gwyneth Paltrow, and hearing actor Matthew McConaughey introduce her segment and talk about her success was a far cry from seven years ago when McPherson lost her passion for teaching.
The one-hour TV telethon for the Entertainment Industry Foundation's Think It Up campaign showed how McPherson's work in the classroom through a method called the Literacy Design Collaborative was life altering for her and her students.
In the segment recorded for the live show, three of McPherson's students from 2014-15, Hernsley Pierre Louis, Dajon Thomas and Chris Wharton, told how she changed their lives.
The method teaches students how to read and write well. The students indicated that before being exposed to the way McPherson taught the Literacy Design Collaborative they weren't nearly as engaged in class.
"It showed that she wanted to help us learn. She cared about us, like our second parent," said Pierre Louis.
Pierre Louis' mother, Jeanine Fils, said in the segment that after being in McPherson's class, "He will come home and study. He will read. I was surprised when I saw him change. "
McPherson said she had lost her passion for teaching before she adopted the strategy that creates strong readers and writers.
She was one of the first teachers in Fayette County to use the Literacy Design Collaborative, which she said is a way to help students master the Kentucky Core Academic Standards.
Students read interesting, challenging pieces and then write about them using specific steps.
At the beginning of the year, students might read essays, then short stories and ultimately novels.
The steps are the same for students no matter what text they are looking at. They read it closely, annotate it, then write a thesis statement, write an introductory paragraph, and gather evidence for their written piece.
Because the steps are the same every time, "it builds confidence," McPherson said.
She uses the process for students working at all levels.
"I'm a firm believer that if it's not OK for all levels, then I don't want to use it," McPherson said. "If you can teach kids how to think through things and how to tackle a problem, then they are not going to fold when they face difficulties later in life. If I can do that, it's huge."
Bryne Jacobs, principal of Lafayette, praised McPherson's use of the method:
"It's something that we've seen be highly effective in terms of getting our kids to think critically."
McPherson has received national attention for developing some teaching units for the strategy.
"To say Sherri inspires teachers in this building is an understatement," Jacobs said. "Sherri inspires teachers all over this country."