Hope King

Hope King is not the kind of teacher who gives her students worksheets. She’d rather get them moving and involved. That kind of instructional approach—which she calls “Set the Stage to Engage”—has become part of her reputation and was the theme for the first teaching conference she co-hosted this spring in Orlando. Response to the sold-out conference, called “Get Your Teach On,” was so great that King and her co-host, teacher and education blogger Deanna Jump, scheduled a second one for June in Dallas and are working on a third.

“Hope King is one of the most dynamic educators I’ve ever met,” said Jump. “Her passion and enthusiasm for teaching is contagious. Just being around her motivates everyone to strive to be the best teachers they can be.”

At Anderson University, where King received degrees in early childhood education and elementary education in 2007, she learned a lot about active learning. A physical education course taught her how to appeal to kinesthetic learners, a science class exposed her to the excitement of leading students through experiments, and reading and language arts courses allowed her to create notebooks full of activities she could use in her classroom.

Today, King teaches reading and science for grade 5 and reading and English language arts for grade 6 at Ron Clark Academy (RCA) in Atlanta, where she is known for transforming the physical space of her classroom to immerse students into the lesson. One day, they might walk into a cave; another day, it’s a fairy tale café; yet another day, they become spies amid black lights that transform white yarn stretched across the room into lasers. “Getting students engaged is 90 percent of the battle,” she said.

King shares her creative ideas with teachers from across the country who visit RCA for training, and she also writes a blog called “Elementary Shenanigans” that has 5,000 followers. She is also active on Instagram, Facebook, and a site called Teachers Pay Teachers where she offers free as well as paid resources for other educators. The conference grew out of all these social media streams.  “There’s a huge need for professional development for elementary teachers,” she said. “They have to teach so much content—as many as seven or eight areas—that it’s stressful. They have so much on their plate that sometimes they’ll do a lot of worksheets. So there’s a huge need to encourage them and to offer strategies for hands-on, interactive activities. I want to reach as many teachers as possible to affect the lives of students.”

Her demanding job at RCA and all these other pursuits—where does King get the energy? Perhaps from growing up in Anderson, South Carolina, with a very busy family. In addition to their jobs—her dad is an engineer at Michelin, her mom is a personal trainer and runs her own cleaning company—her parents coach cross country and track teams at Pendleton High School and have long led church youth programs. King grew up playing basketball and softball though running was always her first love. She ran her first race at age five and was part of a state championship cross-country team at Pendleton High when she was in eighth grade. Even now, when her busy schedule doesn’t allow her much down time, she still finds an outlet in speed.

“In my teaching, I love to be creative,” she said. “If I need an idea or can’t figure out something, I will go for a long run and will come back and have it all figured out.”