At Bookcliff Middle School in Grand Junction, eighth-grade language arts teacher Mary Buss is a leader in curriculum, school structure and assessment. Most of the district’s middle schools followed her lead in adopting a block schedule, which has improved learning by accommodating differentiated instruction. Her research-based pedagogy includes a unit on the Holocaust that teaches students modern history and culture, as well as tolerance and compassion, through literature, film, writing and guest speakers. Mrs. Buss serves on the school's Leadership Team, the district's Language Arts Curriculum Committee, and is co-developing a new standards-based teacher evaluation instrument. She is at the forefront of efforts to empower the teaching profession, and was one of the first members of the board of directors of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to achieve National Board Certification.
Earth science teacher John McKinney at Mountain Ridge Middle School in Highlands Ranch uses research-based practices, data-collection, and assessment methods, as well as creative instruction, to turn his eighth-graders into self-directed learners. His award-winning interdisciplinary units such as the Dinosaur Symposium, where students produce a geological timeline of life-size dinosaurs they have created, and Anatomy of a Disaster, which investigates a disaster scenario while exploring the impact of meteorological conditions, blend inquiry, team-work and experiential learning. Students in Mr. McKinney’s Mobile Museum integrate art and geological science when they visit elementary schools to teach classes about fossils and archeology. A master teacher and textbook author, Mr. McKinney also promotes student achievement through his committee work and as a professional development presenter.
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