WCSD educators attend middle level conference in Philadelphia

Students in Beaty-Warren Middle School English language arts teacher Lynn Shultz’s class work at stations. In the foreground is the Book Nook Station. Shultz shared information about utilizing stations in a middle level setting at the Association for Middle Level Education conference in November.

Teachers from Warren County School District went to the Association for Middle Level Education conference in Philadelphia last month intending to help others learn from their successes.

While they did that, they also learned from the successes of others.

The event, a “comprehensive professional learning experience for middle grades education,” was held from Nov. 6 through 8.

Lynn Shultz, an English language arts teacher at Beaty-Warren Middle School, submitted a proposal for a presentation in March. She was selected in April.

“Not only was I able to present, but Wendy Gray, a science teacher at Beaty, and I spent three days attending sessions specifically tailored to middle level education,” Shultz said.

Her presentation was not theoretical, it was based on what she does every day.

“I shared strategies I use to put the theories of cooperative learning and differentiated instruction into practice in an effective, yet practical way,” she said. “My classroom is divided into six stations and students work in groups through each station to complete the unit of study.”

“I explained how I have used this teamed-based, student-centered approach to learning and the positive effect it is having in my classroom,” Shultz said. “My students are actively engaged at all times, they enjoy working with their peers, and they are learning.”

“Alternate seating, the daily student use of the Smartboard, my small classroom library, and the use of computers and phones in class are all details that make this experience fun for my students,” she said.

These are not major breakthroughs in education. But Shultz said they are underutilized at the middle level.

“I wanted to share this approach because it is an engaging way for students to learn at the middle level,” she said. “The use of centers is common at the elementary level, but diminishes as students get older.”

“There is a slight resurgence of this approach at the middle level as teachers are finding it to be an effective way to harness middle schoolers’ energy and their need to be social,” she said. “In my language arts classroom, it is especially beneficial because each day kids get ample practice in learning how to effectively communicate with others, which is the essence of language arts.”

The teacher got to enjoy being the student for much of the conference.

“Though sharing with others about my classroom was exciting, the best part of the trip was hearing from so many quality educators from around the country,” Shultz said. “AMLE shared the latest research-based strategies from some of our country’s top leaders in education. My favorite session was one led by Dr. Charles Beaman who reminded us that… “You never know what day, what student, what word you speak, that will forever change the life of a child — either for the good or the bad.”

“He continued by sharing his belief that teachers fit into one of two categories,” she said. “He said there are Balcony Teachers and Basement Teachers. Balcony teachers are those whose kind, positive actions lift children up. Basement teachers are those who use criticism and poor teaching to pull children down. I think Warren County is filled with Balcony Teachers.”