Monday, May 4, 2015

Teacher Appreciation Week May 4-8: A message from South Dakota Education Secretary Dr. Melody Schopp

When you were little, did your jaw drop whenever you ran into one of your teachers outside of school? As children, it doesn’t seem to occur to us that teachers have lives beyond the classroom. Seeing a teacher out in the community can feel like a celebrity encounter.

We don’t lose that sense of awe when we grow up either. Think of the first time you talked to a former teacher after you graduated high school. Did you get tongue-tied wondering if you dare use his or her first name?

Teacher Appreciation Week is May 4-8. I hope you take time to celebrate all teachers during this special week—those in our schools today, and those in your life, past and present. There’s a reason we grow up admiring our teachers. It’s not because they’re really celebrities (though I think the world would be a better place if they were). It’s because they encourage us, mold us and inspire us. Teaching is an honorable profession.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Librarian wants students to be lifelong learners, readers and library lovers

Laura Allard is the librarian at Memorial Middle School in Sioux Falls. The South Dakota State Library recognizes this library as an Exemplary 21st Century School Library.

How long have you been a school librarian?
I’ve been a librarian since 1997 and have worked in school libraries for seven years.

 

 Why did you decide to become a school librarian?
I’ve known I wanted to be a librarian since I was 16. I first thought of being a school librarian when I was getting my master’s in library science. I love young adult literature, and one of my favorite parts of working at a public library was helping kids and teens find books and helping them with research projects.

What makes your school’s library an Exemplary 21st Century School Library?
I think what is foundational to Memorial gaining the Exemplary status is that our library has a lot of support from teachers and administrators.

(Click here for more information on the 21st Century School Library program.)


What kind of programming do you offer?
On an ongoing basis, we have grade-level lunch book clubs. We have also hosted a special coding class for Teen Tech Week, author Skype sessions, a winter reading festival, a spring book swap and The Reading Olympics.

Do you have special programming over the summer?
Our library is open during the summer, which is a great way for our students to enjoy the library informally and have a familiar source for reading materials during the long summer months. We especially get a lot of incoming sixth graders, which is a great way for them to feel comfortable in the building, and it’s great for me because I get to meet them first!

How are today’s school libraries different from when you were in school?
I don’t even remember my junior high library. Free reading was not emphasized in school as much when I was in junior high. One thing I hope I accomplish with the students at Memorial is that they have positive memories of the library, which hopefully translates into their being lifelong learners, readers and library lovers!

What books are popular right now?
Right now it’s all about Minecraft! Our students also love reading the YARP (Young Adult Reading Program) Teen Choice Book Award-nominated books, and of course, series like Michael Vey, Divergent and Maze Runner.

What do you like most about being a librarian?
I love that the fundamental goal of libraries and librarians is to facilitate learning in their community. This is also the biggest challenge, because a librarian’s purpose is often misunderstood. Many still see us as only “the book people” when libraries and librarians are so much more. The challenge of being a librarian today is changing perceptions.

What do you like about being the librarian at Memorial Middle School?
I love our students, and I love our teachers!

How do you keep learning?
I read the School Library Journal, Teacher Librarian and Knowledge Quest. I follow a lot of Twitter feeds and have set up several Google alerts for topics I am particularly interested in. I am looking forward to summer to catch up on some of my professional reading. I also enjoy taking online classes from the American Library Association and other professional organizations.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

College readiness courses prepare students for rigor of postsecondary

By taking online college readiness courses while still in high school, students can avoid taking expensive, non-credit bearing remedial courses once they get to college.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dual credit courses save students time and money


Hear what South Dakota educators have to say about how dual credit courses are helping students get ahead!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ag teacher wants all students to know value of CTE

In celebration of Career and Technical Education Month, we recently talked with Karen Roudabush, the agriculture teacher at Bridgewater-Emery High School. 

Roudabush says one year she was the only girl in her school’s FFA chapter because most of her female classmates assumed the program wouldn’t interest them. Now she strives to make sure all students know there’s a place for them in career and technical education.

When did you decide to become a teacher?
I just always loved the idea of being a teacher. My dad was an ag teacher and I saw how much he loved teaching and engaging with students. I don’t remember a time when I wanted to be something else.

What do you like most about teaching?
I like that no day is ever the same. I like the energy kids bring. They’re so inquisitive and excited.

Why is career and technical education important?
CTE is important because so often I’m able to help students make those connections from what they’re doing in other classes to what they might do in their future careers or just later today on the farm. It solidifies what they’re learning in other classes. I could say, here’s something you learned about in science, and now here’s an immediate application of it.

I love that CTE is real-life, hands-on and applicable to students’ lives now and in the future.

How has CTE changed since you were in high school?
I feel like CTE has a more positive connotation now. People see it as a way to gain valuable skills. I don’t know if that was always the case. I was the only girl in my FFA chapter one year, because everyone thought it was the shop class where you “just build stuff.”

What classes do you teach?
I teach a wide variety of classes: intro to ag; animal science; food and natural resources; wildlife and fisheries; ag sales and marketing; and plant science. I’ve also taught a companion animals class. With that one, I reached a whole different demographic. The students in that class were perhaps going to get a pet dog or cat or just wanted to learn more about animals. They didn’t necessarily want to learn about large animals like those that would be covered in my animal science class.

How do you get kids excited about the content?
One of the most important things is just getting to know students. As freshmen, students can take intro to ag. At the conclusion of that class, I like to sit down with them individually and talk about what they liked, what they didn’t like, so I can offer them guidance on classes to consider in the future.

Introducing students to the subject early is also valuable. I teach a six-week exploratory class for 7th and 8th grade students. The class covers a variety of ag topics. I lead mini labs and other fun activities to get them into the content.

Things can change quickly in CTE. How do you stay current?
I think it’s vital to network with other CTE teachers. I use the CTE teacher listserv, I attend the South Dakota Association of Career and Technical Education Summer Conference.

Right here at Bridgewater-Emery, I have a great relationship with Jean Clarke, our family and consumer sciences teacher. She and I have found, for example, that the ways we approach nutrition topics dovetail nicely. We also team up for classes to discuss the work of Temple Grandin from both the ag and human development perspectives.

How do you keep learning?
I am blessed to work for a school that values professional development. Our administrators take advantage of a lot of the opportunities provided to us—workshops, trainings, just checking out what other schools are doing.

There’s so much I don’t know, I’ve got to keep exploring.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Proposed science standards will prepare students for STEM success




My name is Michael Amolins. I am a parent, science teacher, school curriculum coordinator and administrator. I am also an active research scientist at Sanford Research and Augustana College in Sioux Falls. These experiences led me to volunteer as a member of the Science Standards Work Group that helped construct the proposed K-12 South Dakota Science Standards.

I want nothing more for the children of South Dakota than for them to be prepared with the best possible STEM education we can offer. I want nothing more, but in fact expect nothing less.

As a parent, I have an obligation to my son to provide him with a future full of hopes and aspirations.

As a teacher, my job is to translate the desires of parents into palpable results that make our children capable and competitive in the STEM-centered global economy of the 21st century.

The work group established a protocol that ensured we constantly reassessed our purpose and asked ourselves whether or not the standards we were authoring were in the best interest of our state, and more importantly our children.  Throughout the writing process, we used multiple resources, including the Next Generation Science Standards, to help reach those end points. Below are some key questions that helped drive our efforts:

·         Does this document contain guidelines that are in the best interest of our children?
·         Would the practices and skill sets within these standards prepare our children to be competitive for STEM careers in our communities, state and region?
·         Would the implementation of these standards teach our children the critical thinking skills necessary to be curious, informed observers of their world?

Finally, looking at this as a professional research scientist, I have the expectation that this state will prepare our future workforce to be competent problem solvers, hard workers and logical thinkers. I would expect that if I hire scientists from South Dakota,  they would be just as capable as scientists from out of state. In addition, I would expect a graduate from Rapid City to be just as capable as a graduate from Pukwana, Wilmot or Wessington Springs.

The proposed standards are not content focused, but  skills focused. Essentially, they are dedicated to helping students develop the mechanics, laboratory technique and intellectual prowess to become competent, independent problem solvers.

The guidelines established provide local teachers and administrators the flexibility to adopt curriculum that adheres to the needs and interests of their communities, while also asking them to shape that curriculum around the concepts of experiment design, data assessment and time management. This represents a significant conceptual shift from previous versions of this document. The proposed standards would cease to be a checklist of specific content we require all children to learn, and instead become a means by which children develop problem solving skills any high school graduate needs to be successful in a world where STEM dominates forward progress.

These proposed standards provide the necessary guidance to prepare our children to become successful, contributing members of a society driven by science and technology.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dual credit students exhibit motivation and sense of responsibility by Ruth Raveling


Faulkton dual credit students with teacher Nikki Melius

This month, high school juniors and seniors across South Dakota begin another round of reduced-cost dual credit courses at our state’s technical institutes and public universities. These courses are available at the cost of $40/credit hour. That represents a tremendous cost savings, and the opportunity wasn’t lost on the more than 1,000 students who took such courses during the fall semester. I applaud these ambitious young men and women.

I got to meet several Faulkton students enrolled in dual credit courses last fall and was immediately impressed by their motivation and sense of responsibility.

Dual credit courses are college-level; not college-level adapted for high school. For instance, if a Faulkton student signs up for a dual credit college algebra course at South Dakota State University, her classmates are SDSU students. These classes are rigorous.

The distance from Faulkton to SDSU? About 160 miles. Which means that student isn’t driving to her class three days a week, where she could talk with classmates and simply raise her hand if she has a question. Like the Faulkton students I met, many students take the $40/credit dual credit courses online. They don’t meet their instructors or classmates in person. Students must email, text or telephone their instructors if they have questions. These classes require initiative.

Technical institute and university calendars and schedules don’t completely match those of the K-12 system either. One student I met explained that while Faulkton had a day off, he had a test to take in his dual credit course. Professors don’t check in with their students daily to ensure they’re making progress on assignments and projects either. As one student told me, “It’s kind of a learning curve to change, because you go from having daily assignments to, ‘Okay, this is what you have for these next two weeks. Get them done.’” These classes require strong time management skills.

All of this might sound like a heavy weight for high school shoulders. So I asked, would they do it again? Yes was the nearly unanimous response. Why?

One student points out the cost savings: “You don’t have to take it in college and pay twice as much.”

Another likes that his dual credit course (Introduction to Theater) is getting him ahead: “With my major, I’d be able to go straight to the acting classes instead of having to take that theater class that first semester.”

“These students are now our best advocates for the program because they’re very honest and they’ll tell fellow students that there are a lot of benefits, but it does change your learning,” says Nikki Melius, the teacher who administers Faulkton’s dual credit program.

The future is bright for these motivated young people, and because of them, so is the future of South Dakota. 

Ruth Raveling is the South Dakota Department of Education's information specialist.