SHJH science teachers honored by state association
December 20, 2016
The Oregon School Teachers Association presented Outstanding Classroom Teacher Awards to Sweet Home Junior High School teachers Michelle Clarno and Mark Holden during its annual awards event held at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland Nov. 10.
The award recognizes the work of outstanding classroom science teachers. The recipients were selected based on their ability to motivate student achievement and excitement in science, community and administrative support, the ability to support and mentor new and pre-service teachers and overall contributions to the profession.
Holden and Clarno were among seven middle school teachers recognized this way across the state and three in Region 2, which includes Lane, Linn, Benton, Lincoln, Polk, Yamhill and Tillamook counties.
“We try to recognize teachers who are doing really great things in the classroom,” said Lori Lancaster, communication coordinator with the OSTA. It’s part of an effort to promote science and expand the visibility of science teachers and their subject. “Science is the thing that helps kids understand why they’re learning to read and write and do math. It’s about learning about our world and how things work.”
The process works through nominations, she said. “We try to acknowledge as many as we can.”
At this point, the process is by nomination and not “incredibly competitive,” she said, but the number of nominations is growing each year and could become more competitive.
Principal Colleen Henry nominated them for the award.
“Michelle is a leader in the building and a fantastic teacher,” Henry said in the nominations. “Not only did she volunteer to be a part of the statewide science curriculum review committee over the summer, in 2013 she spearheaded NGSS middle level alignment and facilitated alignment meetings in our district six months ahead of ODE.
“This fall, Michelle undertook the role of support teacher in our science department when we were unable to find a fully-endorsed science teacher. Michelle stepped up to assist our temporary teacher with lesson planning, curriculum development and assessment in order to ensure all of our students receive a solid foundation in science.”
Holden, she said, models what he teaches.
“Mark lives the life of a scientist every day and runs his classroom like an efficient machine. There is no detail too small to escape scrutiny and inquiry. His lesson plans are works of art – he’s passionate, curious and a solid member of our teaching staff.”
Both teachers have separate strengths they bring to the classroom, Henry told The New Era. Both are analytical, but Holden runs his classroom like a science lab. Clarno enjoys talking about the big ideas in science.
They help students feel successful, the principal said.
“I was really proud of them. It’s really easy to take for granted what it takes to be a good classroom teacher, and they make it look easy. Good teachers do this – make you think anyone can do it. I’m proud of them as a boss and colleague. I’m pretty lucky to work in a building full of talented teachers.”
Clarno said she was surprised and excited to be honored.
“It’s hard for me to accept a compliment, but it’s a good feeling to be recognized for something you work so hard for.”
Holden also said he was excited.
“It was kind of fun going to OMSI. I’d never been.”
The award was nice, he said, but he just enjoys teaching science.
Clarno, who grew up in Roseburg, has taught the seventh and eighth grades in Sweet Home for 12 years. Her favorite area of science is geology.
She likes science because it’s always changing, and she can find something to learn, Clarno said. “It gets kids excited about learning.”
Clarno is laid back in the classroom, she said. “I like to let the kids tell me what they think and have a voice.”
She wants them to try to figure out the answers and be comfortable with being wrong, she said. Then they can work out the correct answers with Clarno guiding them as needed.
“I put a lot of responsibility on the kids,” she said.
Holden moved to Sweet Home in 1995 from Nampa, Idaho, and a job in Notus, Idaho, to teach at Foster. He began teaching junior high science in 2003.
His classroom is a constant lab, with hands-on activities, a teaching strategy he used as an elementary school teacher at Foster.
“I like knowing things,” Holden said. “I would teach that way anyway, even when I wasn’t teaching science.”
In science, he loves finding things out and testing what others discover, he said. His favorite is life science and biology, but he’s become more interested in earth science as well.
“Evolutionary theory is probably my favorite thing,” Holden said. It deals with incredibly deep amounts of time. A million years is difficult for students to comprehend, but he’s able to connect it to them by showing them a million seconds, around 12 days.
He expects his students to act like scientists, he said. When they write papers, they cannot use personal pronouns in an effort to keep their work objective.
“I try to set it up like a lab,” Holden said. “I use scientific language. For example, the word ‘theory’ has a different connotation here than it does in the hallway.”