Letter: Basalt teachers are worthy of recognition | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Basalt teachers are worthy of recognition


Basalt teachers are

worthy of recognition

Dear Editor:

I was taken aback by a recent letter characterizing the Roaring Fork School District as having a “constant focus on data collection, inflexible standards-based curriculum and the pervasiveness of teaching to the test.” The letter insinuated that fostering a love of learning, critical thinking, problem-solving and teacher autonomy are not hallmarks of the school district’s belief system.

The timing of the letter was particularly curious, given that it’s Teacher Appreciation Week.

To ensure that our teachers are actually worthy of appreciation, opposed to creating standardized students incapable of creative thought, I spent the afternoon observing eighth-grade classes and talking to teachers and students.

In social studies, students connected themes from post-Civil War Reconstruction, the civil rights movement and modern race relations. In science, students learned about genetics and engaged in essential questions such as, “What are the ethical implications for future genetic testing?” and “Should doctors share all of the information in genomes with their patients when the technology becomes available?”

Math students worked collaboratively, challenged by a complex problem forcing them to think critically and utilize a variety of math concepts. Literacy students studied a Holocaust unit. I found them reading several fiction and nonfiction books based on the Holocaust, and they soon will craft questions for a Skype interview with Simone Liebster. She is a Holocaust survivor living in France who authored one of the books.

In visual arts, students proudly worked on our art show. If you want to see out-of-the-box thinking, check out the dragon in the foyer! Band students prepared for a culminating performance while learning about harmonic structures. Students in technology were computer programming, experimenting with a variety of platforms, analyzing the pros and cons of each. The advisory class was immersed in an architecture unit. The teacher specifically designed it to be hands-on, collaborative and force students to solve problems.

In other levels, our fifth-graders visited an art exhibit in Aspen, our sixth-graders created and filmed public-service announcements based on environmental studies, and our seventh-graders prepared for a trip to Mesa Verde. We also have a student group visiting Boston on an in-depth historical visit.

Our community’s support makes these programs happen. The Basalt Education Foundation provided materials for many of the units, individual parent volunteers facilitate these experiences, and recent voter-approved mill levy funds have been instrumental retaining teachers and programs. I am fortunate to lead a school with such widespread support.

The learning is tangible, the teaching inspired, and our classrooms are firmly established in the standards-based teaching model so that students can articulate what they are learning, progress toward meeting those goals and why it is important. I’m proud of our school district, our teachers and the creativity our students display to master our high expectations. Considering that Basalt Middle School has been recognized with three consecutive Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Awards and a National Schools to Watch designation, it is clear that our teachers deserve our appreciation.

Jeremy Voss

Principal, Basalt Middle School