The April KBAY Teacher of the Month is Keri Owen who received a grant to purchase science materials so her middle school students can participate in the Science Olympiad.
Grant helps “Science Olympians” prepare
Keri received a Wells Fargo Teacher Innovation Classroom Grant from the Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) to support her middle school’s Science Olympiad team.
“The purpose of my SVEF grant was to provide funding for my school’s first Science Olympiad team. We used the grant money, along with PTO donations, to pay for the Bay Area Regional Science Olympiad Tournament fees, buy binders to help students organize all the information they had to learn, and to buy materials for the projects they had to design and build for the competition. Some of these designs included building a device which was rotor powered that would safely lower an egg to the ground, designing a rubber powered helicopter, building wind and percussion instruments from scratch, designing and building a cantilever structure to hold the most mass, and a pulley system which could measure an unknown mass accurately.”
“The grant allowed my students to be part of an extremely challenging and innovative academic competition. Because of the funding provided to us, my students have learned to be independent problem solvers and to work together as a team to overcome challenges. Science Olympiad has 23 events and 15 students are allowed on the team. Coaching my students for this event was challenging because they worked on various teams of two in 3-4 of the events each. Students were doing different things at all times and constantly needing my guidance. As the season progressed all involved learn to use their teammates, before asking me, to figure out the next step. By the end, all students were working on their events with very little guidance from me and then coming up, proudly showing me what they had accomplished.”
“Normally, my instinct is to problem solve with (and sometimes for) my students. Because of the large number of tasks going on at any one time, it was necessary for me to teach my students the skills needed to be independent thinkers instead of relying on me for the answers all the time. This program helped with this because the students saw and understood that I couldn’t just do it for them and they happily accepted the challenge!”
Dartmouth Middle School
“Dartmouth is a middle class, public middle school in San Jose’s southwest side. We have over 750 students. I am in my second year at Dartmouth, teaching 6th grade Earth Science, coaching cross country, track and field, and our school’s first Science Olympiad Team. In my class we learn about rocks, minerals, volcanoes, earthquakes, plate tectonics, and the ocean. I absolutely love this job, my students, and this district. After 14 years of teaching, I hope I can finally call this school my home!
The ongoing classroom challenge
“My biggest challenge is getting my students to stop and think about the answer before just giving up and saying they can’t do it or need help. I deal with that challenge by never “helping” a student out by just showing him the answer or where to find the answer. Instead I say, “Where would be a good place for us to look to find that information?” When the student answers correctly I encourage him to use the information, rather than me, for the answers. If he answers incorrectly, I say, ‘Ok, let’s look there and see. …Can you think of another way to find the answer or a better resource?’”
A Southern California native, Keri received her BA in Biology from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky where she was a cross country and track athlete. While teaching in both public and parochial schools in Kentucky she received a Masters degree and teaching credential. After teaching several years in an all boys’ Catholic high school Keri returned to California in 2006 and taught in Santa Maria, San Francisco, San Bruno and Gilroy, often falling victim to budgetary layoffs. She began teaching in the Union Elementary District in San Jose in 2012.
“I enjoy being a teacher because of the freedom to design creative, engaging lessons that students are interested about. I love when a student or parent walks up to me and says, “Your class is so fun”. I see my students get excited about what they’re going to learn and when they walk in and see the agenda on the board I love hearing, “yes, we get to…today!” I like knowing that I am teaching my students something that they are interested in and want to learn about. It feels good to know that I am modelling responsibility, fostering creativity, and teaching them life skills, not just Earth Science.”
Quote - “It feels good to know that I am modelling responsibility, fostering creativity, and teaching them life skills, not just Earth Science”
The Teacher of the Month received $1,000 Grant courtesy of Silicon Valley Education Foundation!
There are hundreds of teaching innovation stories in the Silicon Valley; stories of teachers who keep a solid foundation of learning in their classrooms, then go the extra distance to inspire kids in ways that will take with them into the real world. Check out some of the past recipients of $500 Teacher Innovation Grants:
Click here to see more of our past Teachers of the Month!
About Silicon Valley Education Foundation
As a leading non-profit resource and advocate for students, educators and administrators, Silicon Valley Education Foundation is dedicated to elevating scholastic achievement. Since 2006, more than 750 Teacher Innovation Grants have been awarded to local educators to inspire student learning in and outside of classrooms. SVEF’s mission is to make Silicon Valley the leader in academically prepared high school graduates.
How Can I Support Public Education?
Our local community’s vision is a technologically, innovative Silicon Valley where public school investment results in a strong and sustainable economy and a future workforce is created from local talent. Today, nearly 50% of high school graduates in Santa Clara County are not eligible to attend a four-year California university. SVEF is working with schools to reverse this trend by offering critical math and science programs to prepare students for college and career success. Make a difference in the lives of Silicon Valley students by donating to these crucial programs.
The continued improvement of student achievement in public education relies upon the generosity of our donors and partners. To find out more about how you can help SVEF academically prepare more Silicon Valley students for future success, visit www.svefoundation.org.