By Scott Turnbull, Superintendent Soquel Unified Elementary School District
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
— Benjamin Franklin
A great teacher doesn’t simply talk at their students. The art and craft of teaching is in developing conditions that inspire students to learn. Recently, I’ve had several opportunities to see these types of learning conditions in action and I’d like to share them with you.
Imagine yourself as an eight-year old child. You’re sitting in a classroom and your teacher tells you to write a report on a famous person. Snoozers, right? Now imagine yourself as that same eight-year old and your teacher tells you that you get to portray a famous person in a wax museum. That sounds a lot more interesting, right? Allow me to tell you about the “Wax Museum.”
Linda Joy is a second-grade teacher at Main Street Elementary School. Each February her students study biographies and their culminating event is the Wax Museum. The unit begins with students reading a biography at their level and then writing a report in the first person. One of the strategies embedded in the unit is a timeline in which students line up by biographical character in chronological order and discuss why George Washington never met Abraham Lincoln, for example.
On the day of the Wax Museum, students dress up like the historical figures they studied. They have to stand as still as a museum statue until someone taps them on the shoulder at which point they come to life and read their report.
When I went to Main Street Elementary School on the morning of March 1, 2017, a crowd of parents and family members waited excitedly for the Wax Museum event to start. The door to the library opened and we all went inside to see many famous Americans from the past and a few from the present.
Just to name a few there was Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, Hillary Clinton, Thomas Edison, George Washington, and many, many, more. They were all frozen until a tap on the shoulder brought them to life to read their biographical report. I am certain that these students will forever remember the famous American they studied because of the way this unit was planned, prepared, and executed.
Linda Joy’s team-teaching partner in second grade is Sarah Galvan. Sarah is relatively new to Main Street and Linda is proud to pass down the knowledge she has gained in her career to her partner teacher. What a way to leave a legacy!
Another great event that I had a chance to attend recently (on February 28, 2017) was Santa Cruz Gardens Elementary School’s “Pages and PJ’s.” This evening event is one of the ways the school celebrates Dr. Seuss’s Birthday each year. The students and parents come to school in their pajamas and listen to a wide variety of stories being read in various classrooms by local “celebrities” like a firefighter, a police officer, a doctor, etc.
This year, Santa Cruz Warriors Mascot, Mav’Riks, even joined the fun. I had the honor of being one of the readers this year and a grand time was had by all. The organizers for the event, Gaby Ravina and Brandy Kelly, did a masterful job of coordinating everything. This is just another example of how our school communities go above and beyond to make learning enjoyable and engaging.
Finally, this month, I want to share with you an honor achieved by a talented team of teachers in our district.
Congratulations to the New Brighton Middle School Physical Education Team for receiving the Physical Education Program of the Year Award from the California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, CAHPERD. This award honors a single PE program in the State of CA for meeting specific criteria and raising the bar for Physical Education. There are 3,140 public middle and high schools in CA, plus even more private schools, so to have our district’s program receive this award is an incredible honor.
The NBMS PE staff received the award at the annual statewide conference in San Diego, CA on February 25, 2017. The team is made up of teachers Ashley Edgar, Jim Walker, Melissa Walding, and Katherine Hughes. As a result of receiving the honor, the program will be lead presenters at next year’s conference in Oakland and will also be in consideration for regional and national honors.
Yes, great teachers bring learning to life for students and we are fortunate to have many teachers in Soquel Union Elementary School District who inspire our students on a regular basis.