Say Hello to Lisa Stone, 7th Grade ELA/History Teacher at Bullis Charter School, Los Altos

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SVT: How do you like to establish rapport with your students?

LS: With middle schoolers, it’s a delicate balance. At the beginning of the year, I need to communicate very clear expectations and be consistent when enforcing them yet combine that with having a sense of humor and letting the students see that side of me, too. I also need to let them see me make mistakes and thank them for pointing them out to me, like if I misspell a word on the board or forget to change the date. It’s important for the students to see me as human and imperfect. That, I believe, makes them more comfortable to approach me and to advocate for themselves when they need extra help or need to ask me clarifying questions.

SVT: How do you measure academic progress among your students?

LS: Sure, there are grades and scores, which speak for themselves, but it takes close examination of assignments and assessments turned in to see true academic progress. I need to take time to identify the areas for growth in each of my students at the beginning of the year and to provide each of them with specific feedback on their assignments about those things as the year goes on. For example, I’ll often have students whose written responses to prompts make no sense at the beginning of the year, but as the year progresses, more and more make sense. I will write things like, “Wow! There is only one response of all of these that doesn’t make sense here. That is so much better than at the beginning of the year! I can see that you are now taking the time to revise and edit your responses before turning them it.” That’s how I measure academic progress; it’s measured by the improvements in the quality of work I see as the year progresses. If work quality improves, so do grades and scores.

SVT: What do you see as the role of the teacher in the classroom and learning process?

LS: To me, the role of the teacher is to provide opportunities for students to take ownership over their own learning. It’s my job to pose students with questions to ponder, problems to solve, and challenges to overcome so that they take the reins and try to figure out how to tackle them without me telling them how to do so. During the times when they’re trying to meet those challenges, like figuring out the differences between complex and compound sentences or writing a thesis and plan statement for a research report on Joan of Arc, the teacher’s role is to respond to individual students’ questions and to steer students towards success without saying, “Here’s how you have to do it.” She can do this by asking guiding questions of the students instead of telling them what to do. She can provide on-the-spot instruction tailored to each student at the time that he really needs it. By teaching this way, teachers are able to give each student exactly what she needs instead of saying the same thing to each student while standing in front of the room “teaching” all of them at once. This type of teaching, of course, takes careful planning since the students need to each be engaged in what they’re doing so that students aren’t just sitting there waiting for the teacher to come to them or misbehaving.

SVT: What can parents do to support literacy in their home for your students?

LS: I think that the most important thing that parents can do for their children in this regard is to let their children see them engaged in the act of reading. They need to let their children see them read for pleasure and read for information. They need to let their children listen to them discuss what they’re learning from what they read. When children are young, creating a routine of reading to their children is important. Perhaps this is done before children go to sleep each night or a few nights a week. Children need to learn to appreciate what reading affords them, and if it is equated with an enjoyable time spent with their parents when they’re young, they’ll be more apt to read on their own when they get older. When children get older, like when they’re the ages of my students, in 7th grade, reading the news together is a great activity. At this age, students really are becoming interested in the world around them. This type of reading can then lead to dinnertime conversations about what’s going on in the world, training children for adult-type conversation that takes place over dinner even in homes where there are no children. It’s also a great idea that when following written directions for something, like assembling something new or connecting electronics, that parents do this with their children so that their children can see that reading serves many purposes and is crucial to being able to do so many everyday things.

SVT: What have been your most positive teaching experiences?

LS: The most positive results of my teaching have been when I continue to hear from students long after I taught them. Thanks to social networking, many of my students have reached out to me to reconnect, sometimes as long as a decade after I taught them. Sometimes it’s just to let me know what they’re up to. At other times, it’s to ask me for advice or help as they look towards their futures. The fact that I entered into their minds and that they were prompted to reach out to me fulfills that inner desire that I think many have, which is to know that you’ve had an impact, hopefully positive, on others. Sure, teaching has to do with teaching content and helping students learn those academic and life skills that they will need to be successful adults, but it’s really a profession based on human connections. I’ve seen kids that, thanks to the the rapport that we’ve established with one another, perform better than testing indicates that they should. If students feel that you truly care about them, they will climb mountains for you.

About Lisa Stone

Lisa is excited to return to BCS to teach 7th grade ELA & History this year. She has been a member of the BCS teaching staff since its inaugural year and is excited to celebrate BCS’s tenth year! She’s also excited to see all that BCI has to offer the students and staff members of Bullis Charter School. She is sure that she will be learning several new skills this year thanks to the FabLab!

She graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a B.A. in Political Science/International Relations and obtained her teaching credential from San Diego State University. She began her teaching career at Horace Mann Elementary School in the Anaheim City School District, where she taught for five years. Then she taught at Bel Aire School in Tiburon for five years before coming to BCS. Throughout her career, she has taught grades 4-7. Besides being a classroom teacher at BCS, Lisa has taken on several additional responsibilities during the past nine years: Student Council Advisor, Conflict Manager Advisor, Team Leader, Strategic Planning Committee Action Team Member and Team Leader, and Beginning Teacher Mentor.

In 2011, Lisa was recognized as one of two Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Teachers of the Year. She knows that it is the environment at BCS that has allowed her to be able to distinguish herself as a member of the teaching profession. Through working at BCS, she has been encouraged to create and implement project based learning units in order to provide her students with an in-depth learning experience focused on 21st century skills. This year, thanks to professional development experiences at BCS, she is excited to start creating and implementing design thinking units with her students.

Lisa also belongs to an elite corps of educators who are Nationally Board certified (NBPTS). This prestigious status has only been achieved by 5% of teachers nationally and by less than 1% in California.

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