This is Cobb: Veteran Educator Saundra Watts is a Favorite Among Students

Saundra Watts teaches students at Barber Middle School.

Robotics, app-building, green screens, esports, AI, and more await students who learn from veteran Barber Middle School teacher Saundra Watts. 

“I love teaching kids stuff that they’re actually going to use later on in life. If they can do this here, they can go out and get jobs. We do audio production, we do video production, all of that stuff they can take and do something with later,” shared the veteran Cobb educator. 

The computer science/STEM teacher supports students in grades 6-8. Her class, as the students quickly learn, is project-based. 

“The project they’re working on now is the Black History one. They’re going to create whatever they want so they can draw art on paper or do digital art. Because I got a grant, they had the stylus and the tablets to draw directly into the computer,” Ms. Watts explained. This%20is%20Cobb%20Saundra%20Watts%20202402-2.jpg

The options for students do not stop there. 

“They can do graphic design,” added Ms. Watts. “We have green screens to do video production and a sound booth where they can create their own songs. They get to choose whichever one they want.” 

When done, the student’s work is displayed in the media center so other classes can see their creations and vote on their favorite. 

“I try to publish all the work because I found that once [students] know their work is going somewhere other than just the teacher, they actually work on it a little bit harder. Our classes are pretty much competition-based, and we do competitions all the time,” the Barber teacher explained. 

Her students also quickly learn that their veteran teacher has exceptionally high expectations--anything under 80% is unacceptable to her--but that does not discourage them.

She also pushes her students to participate in competitions outside of school. Her students recently participated in the North Central Technology Competition and brought home almost 20 first, second, and third-place awards. They also won multiple awards last year in the Congressional App Challenge. 

“It’s a good thing for me because I can have something I’ve made myself, not by myself, but something I made. It’s like really cool. I feel like I can have a career with it when I grow up in college,” shared 8th grader Eunice, who wants to pursue a career as a graphic designer. 

This%20is%20Cobb%20Saundra%20Watts%20202402-12.jpgThe Barber students make video games or draw art when competing in the Games of Change. They are gearing up for the competition this year. Last year, they won Roblox money and a $150 Best Buy card for their work.

“It is amazing the prizes that they give them. We had one seventh grader get a $600 scholarship. One of them, she just drew her character with a back story. She got a $250 Amazon gift card and a $150 Best Buy card just for using the skills we’re teaching them,” praised Ms. Watts. “Seeing them get nervous, like ‘I’m not going to win,’ and just seeing the surprise when they do win is just awesome.” 

The app challenge is one of 8th grader John Wagner Kline’s favorite memories from his three years in Ms. Watts’ class. Like other students in his class, John enjoys the projects in the computer science/STEM class. 

“It feels like every day going to our class is like something new,” John said. 

That is exactly Ms. Watts’ goal when she makes lesson plans for her students. 

“I try to do something different in teaching, so none of my lessons are pretty much repetitive. One thing that I implemented this year was the kids got paychecks. I got help from Latasha, our math teacher. The kids are now in corporations. I got this idea because we had kids who did internships with MAD-learn. They worked with the CEO; they worked with the big people.” Barber%20students%20earn%20employee%20of%20the%20onth%20status.jpg

The students became project managers, data analysts, UI, UX, and graphic designers. The students earned a “paycheck” for the work they created. She recognized the standout students as “Employees of the Month.” 

“They learned that each person must complete their work, or the team fails. I pay them for a certain number of hours, and they get bonuses and deductions. They learned a lot about finances. Students learned about earnings, salaries, taxes, and budgets, to name a few,” Ms. Watts explained.

Her goal was to create a school-to-career pipeline and help the students understand what each position—possibly their future career—includes. Although the students may not enter the career field for several years, Ms. Watts is helping her students get a jump start on their resumes. The students’ resumes are growing thanks to the awards and competitions they win while in her class. The students can refer to their work thanks to the QR code in the yearbook that points back to their work. 

“The students create resumes that we add to each year so they have a resume to apply for clubs in high schools. The students will also create a website portfolio of all the things that show what they can do with technology. The hope is that they will add to it each grade level all the way to 12th grade in high school,” added the future-thinking teacher.

The awards and competitions are not what keep students returning to Ms. Watts’ class. This%20is%20Cobb%20Saundra%20Watts%20202402-20.jpg

“She’s a good teacher,” John explained. “She just makes me feel like myself. I feel comfortable with her.” 

John and his classmates smile as they walk the halls of Barber because of Ms. Watts. 

“I come to school because of Ms. Watts,” John confessed. 

For 8th grader Eunice, Ms. Watts ranks as her favorite teacher—ever. 

“She supports me in almost everything I do. She guides me through my middle school years. She tells me what I need to know and when. She gets me ready for high school,” Eunice explained. 

Creating learning opportunities for her students does not stop at the end of the school year. This past summer, five Barber Middle School students seized the opportunity to intern with MAD-learn. Their teacher also did an externship to sharpen her skills and pass what she learned on to her students.

About two decades ago, Ms. Watts served students several states away in Louisiana. When Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans area, Ms. Watts made her life-changing move to Cobb County, where she started teaching at Barber. The school has been her home ever since. Ms. Watts teaches as part of Barber’s STEM cohort, where students stay together through all their core classes and work on specific STEM challenges, like building a robotic hand. As part of the cohort, Ms. Watts integrates the lessons in her classroom into what her students are learning in other classes. 

This%20is%20Cobb%20Saundra%20Watts%20202402-6.jpg“We’ve done one project recently for the Most Dangerous Game, where the kids in Language Arts built a diorama out of cardboard, and then they came to my room, and we took pictures of the diorama and uploaded it. They put themselves in the diorama presentation. We took that video and put it in book creator where they had to do their own survival book,” Ms. Watts detailed. “It was awesome, the stuff that the kids came up with. They caught onto it so quickly.”

To prepare her students for future careers, she continually looks ahead. That’s why, about six years ago, she launched Barber’s B.U.G. Bytes Club (Brilliant, Unstoppable, Geniuses). The club focuses on computer science, esports, and gaming design. Ms. Watts applies for grants, like Cobb Tank, to help her students. One grant provided five Nintendo Switches and three virtual reality headsets.

“I’m trying to prepare the kids for esports because we know that gaming is a very big industry right now. You can play games and get paid,” she said. 

She took her students to KSU Marietta to tour the eSports part of the school.

“They teach them that eSports is more than just gaming because there are so many jobs that are needed, like lawyers, doctors, psychologists, etc. It is cool. One student goes to KSU on the weekend and plays games with the college students,” Ms. Watts said. 

This District podcast explains how Cobb is ramping up esports teams all over the District.

After two decades at the same school, it is clear Ms. Watts thinks Barber is “awesome.” Barber%20MS%20Front%20of%20School%202.JPG

“Barber is the school for me,” she declared.

She views the school community as a family. She has taught brothers, sisters, and cousins. 

“We’re able to have whole conversations because I know the family. I love that part,” she declared. 

In addition to praising her fellow Barber teachers and her principal, who supports Ms. Watts’ long list of creative and forward-thinking ideas to help students, Ms. Watts also loves the professional development opportunities Cobb Schools provides to STEM and CTAE educators like her. Plus, the Cobb educator appreciates the field trip opportunities for students. 

“I love the field trips that were going on with the kids because that’s like your bonding [opportunity] because they get to see you outside of the school building,” Ms. Watts added. 

She recently took Barber students to Cobb’s annual FutureFest, an annual career exploration event that introduces students in Grades 6-12 to unique industry sectors that connect to the CTAE program exploratories and pathways in their local school. 

“The kids really enjoy FutureFest because they get to see some of the stuff we have been doing. We have two of our cohort children who actually are in Cobb Innovation and Technology Academy (CITA) right now, and I think it has to be because we did that tour for a Future Fest. I love FutureFest, it is awesome,” Ms. Watts said. 

When Ms. Watts was learning about another field trip opportunity, the presenter turned out to be one of her former students. That’s one example of how she meets former students in theSaundra%20Watts%20shows%20off%20her%20students%20work.jpg community after they graduate from her class. They remember her, and she remembers them.

Another student told her former teacher she still thinks about the books she read in Ms. Watts’ class. 

“It touched my heart,” confessed the veteran teacher. 

Hearing the praise from her students, past and present, adds an extra sparkle to the face of the beloved teacher. 

As Ms. Watts walks the halls showing off her students’ work, her pride shines like a mom bragging about their child’s first-place trophy. 

After all, they are not just her students; they are family.

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