I am enjoying spending time at the middle schools this semester as I learn more about their work for students, and recently had the pleasure of meeting with Tiffany McMaster and her team of administrators and counselors at Traner Middle School. The team shared information about the programs and supports at Traner which has 800 students in grades six through eight. The staff has been using historical performance data to anticipate areas of concern. The school administration supports data driven decisions, a team concept that includes shared leadership and decision making, and a focus on growth towards achieving proficiency. They have found success with programs such as Achieve 3000, GoMath, co-taught classes for ELL, SpringBoard use for ELA, and professional learning for 21st Century Learning certification. Additionally, Traner has been encouraged with student progress from PBIS, Home School Visits, Intercession, and Summer Academy. They have also put a stronger focus on family engagement by hosting four special events each year. These events promote student success, share data and information, and allow parents to be more comfortable at the school.
I visited several classrooms to meet with students and teachers. The students in Lino DeMicheilei’s eighth grade ELL class were doing various vocabulary word activities. The students were all participating and having fun learning and practicing the vocabulary words.
Math teacher Christine Hanzlik-Wilcox and her students were solving problems using different strategies. The students provided their answers and explained to the class how they solved the equations. They used “math talk” in their explanations showing their true comprehension of the concepts.
Melissa Norcross and her students were studying evolution in this eighth grade science class. They were in small groups working on matching questions and answers to define concepts of evolution. I was pleased to see two of the students I met during a Dean’s Future Scholar event at UNR during the summer. They remembered me, too!
Students in Stacie Tiernay’s Honors ELA class were brain storming about a writing prompt using their vocabulary words while collaborating in small groups. Afterwards they started a reading assignment.
After visiting the classrooms, over thirty eighth grade students joined me in the library for lunch. I encouraged them to continue to work hard and persevere. We talked about the many resources available and the staff at the school who are there to help them. Students asked me several questions. I was especially intrigued by Harold’s question asking me how I figured out what I wanted to be. This was a great question, and I think it is important for all students to think about this and realize that they don’t necessarily need to know what they want to be right now. They just need to have goals and keep making progress to be the best they can be. After lunch, the students participated in the monthly STEAM challenge activity. The students worked in groups to build a scribble box using paper cups, batteries, markers, clay, and paper. They all did a great job of quickly completing their project and most of them made a really top-notch design.
I am really impressed by the positive environment at Traner MS. The hardworking staff puts the student’s instructional progress as the driving force for all that they do. They include the emotional well-being of students in their core values for the education of their students. I know all the Traner Vikings will be working hard this school year.