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Bayshore’s Golden Apple finalist rocks the classroom
February 15, 2017

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Many adults remember watching "Schoolhouse Rock" when they were kids and the lessons they learned in math, history and English through music.

At Bayshore Elementary School, third-grade teacher Mariah Washington is bringing that back to life to help her students learn.

It is this kind of thinking outside the box that has allowed Washington to become a Golden Apple finalist for the first time in just her third full year of teaching.

Washington said she had no idea it was coming until she saw her family, principal and previous Golden Apple winners come to her door and give her the news of her being a finalist.

"I was super excited. The kids went crazy. It's one of the moments that really stands out in my life," Washington said. "It was cool how they did that and celebrated with us."

Washington, a Cape Coral resident, was born and raised in Lee County. She attended Littleton Elementary, Diplomat Middle and North Fort Myers High schools before attending FGCU.

Washington credited her parents for bringing her up in a way that allowed for her success and a staff at school she called "the best of the best."

"I was raised in a Christian home, a faithful family, and I try to honor God in what I've done and it's really worked for me," Washington said. "I'm also at a school with amazing leadership."

Her principal, Lynn Herrell, is also a Golden Apple winner who taught Washington's sister in first grade the year she won it. She said she was hoping to get Washington to teach for her.

"I've known her since she was 5, when she would come in with her mom when she volunteered. It's been a joy to watch her grow and she was born to be a teacher," Herrell said.

She earned her degree in 2013 and started her career at Manatee Elementary, teaching only half the year before going on maternity leave.

She went to Bayshore the following year and has taught there ever since. In the past year, she has developed her uncanny way to mix teaching and song to help students learn in a fun way.

Washington was inspired by a teacher in Las Vegas who wrote her own songs to help her students learn and thought she could do it.

"I create my own songs from the radio with popular songs from performers like Bruno Mars and 24-Carat Magic. I make my own lyrics," Washington said. "The kids love it and the Golden Apple people really enjoy seeing some of the songs and the kids having fun while learning in the classroom."

She has performed songs about fractions, multiplication and the strategies you can use, properties, reading, text clues and structure. About 10 songs in all.

Herrell said song is only one of the tools she uses to teach. She does Whole Brain instruction, cooperative learning and traditional teaching and has mixed it into an excellent learning environment.

"She loves the kids and loves everybody. She knows how to connect with people and make them the best they can be," Herrell said. "She's not afraid to take a risk and that's very important."

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