A Few Remarks About Our Remarkable Teachers

On Monday evening, Trinity Valley School will host its inaugural State of the School address. When I pause to catch my breath as we wrap up this jam-packed semester, I can unequivocally say that the state of the middle school is vibrant. And it’s because of our outstanding faculty. They are not just remarkable teachers; they are remarkable people. It’s not just that they consistently go “above and beyond” for our students; they apply a creativity and ingenuity to their efforts to reach kids. This week, I want to brag about our faculty for a moment.

Did you know that sixth grade teachers are helping students code their own games using Java script? To provide more personalized support for this effort, they have partnered with upper school computer science students.

Did you know that our humanities teachers are piloting an adaptive online grammar program to teach a subject where students are often at widely varying skill levels?

Did you know that pre-algebra and algebra courses now offer differentiated tracks for each unit – and 90% of our students choose the “challenge track?”

Did you know that our faculty is working with Harvard University’s Donna Hicks – an international conflict negotiator – to create advisory programming that encourages students to become Dignity Agents? Here’s one result of this effort: At a recent assembly on the power of gratitude, four amazing teachers took the stage and — in real time — thanked someone who had touched them. Erin MacNabb called to thank her father for making a difference in her life. Laura Montgomery then took the phone to thank her high school chemistry teacher for challenging her to reach her potential. Jeff Snyder thanked his best friend for always looking out for him. Tina Clayton invited her mother to the stage and shared how she continues to influence her life. We are seeing the ripple effect: now students are making their own calls and writing notes to express their gratitude.

Did you know that our librarians, Ms. Maggie Knapp and Ms. Cindy Coggin, recently created two types of mobile libraries to help students make connections with great books? First, they delivered rotating satellite libraries — which they have dubbed Reader Feeders — to eighth grade Humanities classrooms. Second, a Pop-Up Library appears each week at the seventh and eighth grade study hall, utilizing iPads to check out books.

Did you know that math teacher Ms. Kathy Heller is one of only three secondary teachers – and the only middle school teacher — on a national College Board committee charged with developing a 6-12 grade program to increase the number of students who are ready for college and career and/or for success in one or more AP courses during high school?

Did you know that teachers push to bridge the gap between learning about “real world” problems and acting to solve those challenges? For example, take a look at the Monarch Project Facebook page, designed by sixth grade science teacher Julie Frey. Ms. Frey provides this background:

Each fall, hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies migrate from the United States to overwintering areas in Mexico. Our specific area of Texas is a crucial stop for the monarch butterfly. The monarch is dependent on our local area to provide milkweed ‘waystations’ for the adults to lay eggs.

Our students have mailed tags and seeds to followers from around the nation that want to get involved with monarch conservation. We have answered messages to followers that ask for guidance with eggs that they have found, types of milkweed to plant and how to raise them. My students have raised 34 monarchs and tagged 48 for release to Mexico. Even the University of Minnesota Monarch Lab follows our Facebook page!

Did you know that in addition to their regular teaching assignments, seventh and eighth grade teachers manage to create incredible Selectives offerings that foster innovative thinking? New offerings next semester include Was It Something I Said? The Trial and Death of Socrates, Dateline TVS: The Secret’s Out (part investigative journalism, part movie-making), and Can You Survive On Your Own where students will simulate financial planning, practice interviewing skills, and explore a personal passion.

Did you know that this fall six of our students were chosen to participate in TEDx Fort Worth – something they trained for in a Selectives class? Their topics ranged from the need for society to adjust its vision of perfection to how Albert Einstein can help us reduce the complexity in our lives.

Did you know that over 100 students pulled together, under the expert care of Ms. Anna Carlson, to put on a smashing fall production of Mulan?

Did you know that fifth and sixth graders now have their own choir? This fall, music teacher Ms. Ashley Owen created the Trojan Treble Clefs, an afterschool choral ensemble. The interest was immediate, with nearly a quarter of our fifth and sixth graders signing up. After last week’s spectacular holiday concert debut, I’m sure the ranks will continue to rise!

Did you know that our MathCounts team were champions at the MathCounts state competition?

Did you know that the Debate Club recently competed in the first of three tournaments? This is how faculty sponsor Ms. Tina Harper talks about her young debaters:

Debate in middle school takes place during a time when most students are given the opportunity to run outside or just gather with friends. Instead, a group of devoted young adults gather in my room to discuss education, leadership, and the state of our economy. Our meetings occur Tuesdays during recess and lunch. Middle school students at Trinity Valley fuel the debate club with purpose. Their enthusiasm and commitment to debating real issues inspires me.

I haven’t even touched on the 1:1 iPad project, which has spurred every teacher to adapt their curriculum in innovative ways. That is no small task. But listen to how sixth grade math teacher Ms. Abbie Cornelius talks about the technology that she and her middle school colleagues are using:

The iPad initiative allows me to use apps like ShowMe and Explain Everything to have the kids make short screencasts where they verbalize their understanding of math concepts. I not only get to see their work, I get to hear what they are thinking. It sheds so much light on misunderstandings and forces the kids to “speak” mathematically. Apps such as Nearpod and games like Kahoot allow us to make quick informal assessments that are fun and that provide us with instant feedback! And of course, Canvas allows kids to keep a constant eye on their performance and manage their learning more independently.

Did you know that, on top of all this, each middle school teacher has reached out to a leader outside the field of education as part of a collaborative research project – and our work is gaining attention? Click here to read an article about Project 2025, recently published on a prominent education blog.

Even this impressive sampling cannot capture it all — especially those small, pivotal interactions between teachers and students: the encouraging word to a student who needs a lift, the art of knowing when to push and when to step back, the space to try and fail and try again, and the laughter that echoes through our hallways.

One teacher who recently joined the faculty told me, “So many things here at TVS have rekindled my faith in this generation of students we are teaching.” I would add that TVS teachers are doing so much to kindle that flame. Put simply: At TVS, your kids are surrounded by remarkable people.

And that, I’m sure, you already know.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s