Ensuring students have the skills they need to be successful in high school is a goal for all teachers in the Silver Falls School District. The challenges facing teachers in this goal are unique to each school. Allowing 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade teachers to specialize in subject areas is one way in which Silver Crest principal Mark Hannan and his team are preparing middle school students for the high school experience.
In the past, Silver Crest teachers taught all subjects rather than specializing in one or two areas. This is a common model for smaller schools around the nation, and has many benefits. However, higher grade level students often benefit from a deeper dive into certain subject areas. For this reason, Silver Crest introduced a new model that allows teachers the chance to hone in on their professional interests and licensing, whether that be science, social studies, language arts, or math.
During his 15 years as an administrator at Silverton High School, Silver Crest Principal Mark Hannan noticed a pattern.
“I saw that kids were coming to high school at such different levels, especially in science. We were spending a lot of time getting kids on the same page,” he said.
Hannan decided to reorganize teaching by specialized subject in grades 5-8 to close this gap. In the new model, instruction across the grade level is consistent because each student is progressing through lesson plans from the same teacher.
Teacher Dan Feller is leading Science and Social Studies for grades 5-8. With help from an anonymous grant (see our post on the topic here), they have doubled the science classroom space and purchased new lab equipment and technology.
Feller has been at Silver Crest for 17 years. He started as an instructional assistant and then went back to school to earn his Masters degree at Willamette University. He has been a general teacher for grades 2/3 and 4/5 for the past 15 years. He thinks the new model is benefitting his students.
“I’ve always been into science, so when I got this opportunity I was pretty excited,” said Feller. “The majority of these kids were in my class when they were younger for two or three years, so I really got to know them. There’s a joy in being able to see what sorts of people the kids have become.”
Whether it’s the new equipment, the new space, the new teaching model, or all three, the students are the ones who ultimately benefit.
“It’s really great to have a bigger space for science,” said Lily Petracci, grade 7. “We used to be really crowded and had short tables. Now we have more hands-on work and more fun.”