Fairfax County Public Schools
Cheryl Perry was born and raised in Waynesboro, Virginia. Cheryl received her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University and graduate degree from Tennessee State University. Cheryl is a 33 year veteran elementary school teacher. In addition to classroom instruction, Cheryl has been highlighted on Fairfax County Public Schools Channel 21, presented at various workshops in the county and at George Mason University, made a commercial with NFLPA (National Football League Players Association), held state and local positions in her teacher’s union, and mentored first-year teachers and student teachers. In 2000, Cheryl was nominated Fairfax County Teacher of the Year.
Going through school, history was her least favorite subject. She considered reading the textbooks and answering questions at the end of the chapter a boring task. She vowed to herself that when she had her own classroom, she would change the way history was taught.
Cheryl believes that the simplest form of capturing the imagination is by storytelling, “Storytelling allows the listener to be involved as a character of his or her choosing. The students can hear the title, imagine or picture the setting in their minds, be a part of the plot, and hopefully resolve any problems or issues in the story.”
This has been her approach to teaching the entire social studies curriculum which also includes the Civil War. From the beginning, she captures her students' interests, imagination, and involvement with four engaging words, “Once upon a time.” Together Cheryl and her students cross the bridge to Virginia's historical periods with excitement and with great anticipation.
There are many resources Cheryl incorporates into her stories that bring important events, places, and people right into the classroom. Such resources are primary source documents, trade books. human resources, level textbooks, videos, props, interactive notebooks, and songs - just to name few. As Cheryl’s students travel through the timeline of history, they get the opportunity to make choices about the political events, the resolution of problems, and express what position they hold at any given point in the story. Throughout her class, students learn that their opinions are important, thus opening up the possibility for debate and idea sharing.
The Civil War is a favorite topic among Cheryl’s students. During the month of February Cheryl combines the Civil War unit with Black History Month, believing that in-order for students to understand and appreciate the accomplishments and hardships of African Americans; they need to know how the past influenced who they are. For one particular project, Cheryl has each student select an African American to research and use as a focus for various projects. In addition to the projects, students are asked to share a daily fact about their person with the class. As a culminating activity, students become the person they chose by dressing up like him or her and giving a three to five minute presentation about their life.
Today her students don’t ask, “When is Social Studies?” instead they ask, “When is story time?” Cheryl proudly states that, “That’s a long way from answering the questions at the end of a chapter.”