Meet the Teacher: Schnell Bernavil

Welcome to Jurassic Park, where students explore what they’ve learned


By Amy Henderson 

It’s Jurassic Park Day in Schnell Bernavil’s 2nd grade class at KIPP Voice Academy, and unlike the real Jurassic Park where things always go wrong - very, very wrong – everything is going right for the young explorers.  

Their teacher, outfitted in a blowup T-Rex suit, stops at one station to help a student decipher a measurement. Another student looks up from her math problem to bat at the T-Rex tail before resuming her calculations. In just a few minutes, the students will rotate to other stations where they will demonstrate their mastery of the lessons Ms. Bernavil has been teaching them for the past few months.   

“After every quarter, I take everything that we’ve learned, pick a theme, and do a little review. All the centers are based on what they learned in ELA and math,” said Ms. Bernavil. Activities include measuring toy dinosaurs and creating bar graphs, using number charts to predict what numbers come before and after, putting “dino-terms” in alphabetical order, and matching parts of speech using rocks and dinosaurs. There’s also a Jurassic Park photo booth for the students – decked out with explorer hats – to commemorate their day at Jurassic Park and dinosaur-themed snacks provided by parents. 

“I tell them a month or two before what the theme is going to be, but I wait to decorate until the night before. I stay late and decorate, so when they come in the music is playing, and everything is set,” she said.  

She’s been teaching for eight years and finds the themed review days go a long way towards making learning fun and memorable for her students. “Learning is hard, especially when it comes to reading,” she said. “Some don’t like to come to school. It’s helping them see that they can always learn and become life-long learners. I take things that they see in movies or on TV and bring it into class. They see that even though dinosaurs lived long ago, we can still use dinosaurs in math, we can still use dinosaurs in reading. They see that learning can be fun.” 

They’re also using the social skills Ms. Bernavil has passed along: cooperation, asking for help when you need it, being kind and considerate of people and spaces. It’s all part of the community she’s created in her classroom. Everyone has a job that they applied for, listing the characteristics that make them a good fit for the role, from doctor (care for sick/hurt classmate) to pilot (lead the line) to life coach (help classmates during their break and work out issues) and many more. 


Her approach has paid off. The students are excited to learn and demonstrate their knowledge. “When I’m teaching them, they’re engaged. When I open my mouth to speak, they’re listening.” 

She said her experience as a Teacher of the Year and the learning opportunities it has provided through JPEF have helped her students. “Through these opportunities, I am put in rooms and spaces to learn from and network with educational professionals who value education and the children they serve. By attending the presentations and workshops, I can reflect on my practice, enhance my teaching skills, experience academic technology programs, and stay updated on the latest developments in the field of education. 

For the end of the year, the students will get to enjoy Disney within the walls of KIPP. They’ll get real life experiences that call upon what they’ve learned. “I’m going to put them in a pretend gift shop and they’re going to have to ask themselves, ‘if I have $20, what can I get with $20? What’s my change?’,” she said.  

The 2023 Duval County Teacher of the Year semifinalist said that’s what she loves most about teaching: bringing the lessons to life. “Through our classroom transformations, through our conversations, through them having different jobs in our classroom, we make our classroom a little city so that one day they can change their cities, their communities and eventually the world.” 

Watch Ms. Bernavil's class make volcanoes:





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