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Author, Mr. LaVohn makes Campus Seriously Fun

Brittney Byrd
Every teacher on the upper school faculty e-mail list knows Mr. Rob LaVohn, upper school English teacher, values community and a positive work culture. He frequently organizes outlets for quality time, such as faculty athletic tournaments or the annual student “Java Jam,” a one-of-a-kind coffeehouse-style talent show sponsored by FBCA’s National English Honor Society (NEHS).
The English department head does all he can to ensure that people do good work and work well together.

“My goal is to help our English department improve, and I’m really proud of the team we’ve put together.”

Despite his sense of humor, LaVohn commands respect from students and sees simple rules, such as the dress code, as important to enforce in order to create an effective learning environment.

This March, LaVohn will present at the National Conference on Innovative Teaching Strategies, a sub-section of the Innovative Schools Summit. His presentation is entitled ‘Shut Up and Teach: Turning Assessments into Teaching Tools’.

“A simple way to think of it is that I want students to know more about a subject after taking a test or quiz than they did going into it.”

LaVohn says it is an outgrowth of project-based learning, a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic problem.

“The approach shifts the spotlight from the teacher and onto the student (or groups of students) through open-ended, real-world quiz questions, projects and tests,” he said.

As a published author, LaVohn enjoys the opportunity to teach Creative Writing again.

“I have never known anyone who has as many lines of poetry memorized and who can readily recall something from the literature I mention,” said Mrs. Tara Longbottom, senior English teacher. “He and I enjoy quoting Macbeth back and forth. I think he knows the entire play by memory.”

With his many years of experience in Language Arts education, Mr. LaVohn is not afraid to challenge the status quo at the academy.

“The English department is pushing to have a wider variety of literature taught,” he said.

The changes he evokes have a positive impact, made evident by the high scores FBCA students earn on standardized tests. Last year, FBCA seniors averaged a 580 on the Evidence Based (English) portion of the SAT. That is 70 points higher than the state average. The average ACT English score in 2019 at FBCA was a 26, whereas the national average was 20. 74% of FBCA students passed the English AP Exam which means many of these students got to skip out on introductory English courses in college, potentially saving thousands of dollars. These stellar results reflect the outstanding teaching of LaVohn and the rest of the English department.

“Mr. LaVohn offers options/choices for his students concerning their assessments, and I think that his openness to different ways of assessing students prepares them for 12th grade and for college,” said Longbottom. “He is mindful of letting students find the best way to express how much they have learned.”
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