The March KBAY Teacher of the Month is Suzy Woodley who received a grant to purchase science equipment for her middle school.
Grant set up a “Science Closet” for teachers
Suzy received a Wells Fargo Teacher Innovation Classroom Grant from the Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) to create a Science Closet for her middle school.
“Recently I have concluded that a science supply closet is more effective and efficient than teachers having their own individual supplies. Science teachers will have access to higher quality reusable supplies that are rotated through the science teachers. With the limited funding for science supplies, this would ensure there are few duplicate supplies, thus allowing more allocated funding per instrument and thus more choice in the items to be purchased.
“Secondly, it would bring in consumables that have not been used before and give me the opportunity to try out new hands-on projects. An example of this kind of project is the balloon car project in which all 170 of my students design and build a balloon powered car.”
“Having access to a larger quantity of differing high-end scientific tools increases student motivation, as I have yet to find a student who isn’t motivated through actual use of these tools. Also, when you’re working in teams of three to four, if you have enough tools for two or more people to take measurements, then students gain a greater amount of with the tool, thus actually increasing their skill with the scientific tool.”
Quimby Oak Middle School
“I teach 8th grade physical science (covering physics, chemistry, and some astronomy). I have four periods of general physical science and one period of honors physical science. My classes are representative of Quimby Oak middle school as a whole: they are a mix of socio-economic levels and cultures. My class size ranges from 30 to 37 students. Most of the time my students are within groups, so I have 8 to 9 groups of 3 to 4 (with an occasional group of 5) per each class period
At Quimby we teach in teams: Science, Language Arts, and History all have the same students. This allows us to communicate and work together to help create a support network for our students. The Language Arts teacher and Social Studies teacher and I collaborate to help create a consistent environment with communication, rules, procedures and expectations.
Within my science class I stress respect, positivity, community, collaboration, resourcefulness and confidence. When one enters my class most of the time you will find the following: students working together on a project or activity with me walking around and having mini conversations, or a full class discussion with shout outs. There is a balance between student lead, teacher lead, and mutually interactive lessons.”
The ongoing classroom challenge
“The biggest challenge for me currently is class size and the sheer number of students I see in a day (170 approximately). I have 32 to 37 students per class (five 50-minute periods). This means I get approximately 1.2 minutes with students per day, if I did nothing else besides conference with him or her or answer a question of theirs. The importance of finding a solution to this challenge is the educational stress on working with children’s unique needs and to make sure everyone in the class is gaining the skills necessary to succeed.”
“So the question is: how does one efficiently and effectively evaluate each child when one is so limited with the amount of time they have with them? Given these large class sizes, I constantly work to evolve new more streamlined and effective evaluations and support methods for the students. Currently I maintain students within teams for a majority of the time. I encourage students to have confidence to ask others in their team questions and to have patience to help teammates really understand the material. If the team comes to a point where they disagree or cannot come to an agreeable solution, then they call me over and we have a more detailed discussion. And here flows my class. I walk miles a day maneuvering around the classroom, watching students have discussions, asking individuals questions, stopping the class for a check-in and then moving again in the hum of the class.”
“I believe in open communication and search out perspectives when I have a challenging situation in class. If I notice anything I will reach out to all other teachers of a student and have discussions about what is going on within their classrooms. I also work closely with parents and administrators. Most importantly I encourage students to speak with me via written notes on their assignments placed in a box, email, or my office hours (before school, break, lunch, or after school most days) anytime they have a concern, comment, question, or need additional support with their classes.”
“I still have much room for improvement and constantly seek out a second set of eyes to see what I cannot see, and other perspectives for new tools to use at a moment’s notice. All of this increases my chance of success, but I have hope that one day the importance of class size will be realized all the way through high school and not just within the lower elementary levels.”
Suzy graduated from UC Davis in 1998 with a B.S. in Microbiology. After graduation she wasn’t sure where her passion lay, but was tired of working in the isolation of a lab. Over the next few years she experimented with many careers and educational fields, such as working with autistic children for a year, inside sales, as an administrative assistant, and as a lab technician. None of these careers kept her excited and motivated until she decided to enter the teaching profession. “I have found within middle school education a place where I fit, where I find new sources of motivation and excitement and where I feel I make a difference. I completed my student teaching in the Evergreen School district and have been teaching for 8 years at Evergreen’s Quimby Oak Middle School. Every year my love for teaching grows.”
“My favorite part of teaching is my interactions with my students and fellow teachers. I love the challenge of working towards finding that dynamic classroom environment that supports students’ abilities to be resourceful and positive contributors to teams and community. Also, creating a classroom that supports children gaining confidence and finding their voice to speak out, not being afraid of making mistakes. I love seeing the students’ eyes light up and their mouths smile when they figure out an answer on their own or with harmonious group effort. I love seeing and discussing the incredible ideas, creativity, and solutions that my fellow teachers have implemented. This collaborative power is awesome in pushing me to take the classroom to a higher level of success.
Quote - “I have found within middle school education a place where I fit, where I find new sources of motivation and excitement and where I feel I make a difference.... Every year my love for teaching grows.”
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.