Channeling Westport Teachers

Last fall, Teaching Channel — an initiative to videotape inspiring teachers giving challenging lessons, then put the results on TV and the web — came to Westport.

Over a dozen Staples and middle school teachers — in math, science and English — were taped. The 1st lesson has been posted, and is drawing rave reviews.

Ali Krubski — a young Staples biology instructor — is shown teaching 9th graders how to design and conduct a lab that examines carbon cycling.

Pretty standard stuff — unless you’re a biologist — but Krubski makes it sing. Rather than “teaching” the lab, she encourages students to think about science, think critically, collaborate and communicate.

It’s exactly what Teaching Channel — whose tagline is “Inspired Teaching. Inspiring Classrooms” — hopes to highlight. The idea is for educators across America — the world, even — to click on the 5-minute video, get ideas and resources, adapt lesson plans, and maybe even chat online with Krubski and other biology teachers.

That’s already happening. And, according to Dr. A.J. Scheetz, it’s exactly where education should be headed.

“Getting students to think about science as an active process — not just a series of steps in a textbook or worksheet — is really important,” says Westport’s science department chair, grades 6-12.

“Students need to develop their own procedures and questions, then use the information they get from their labs to support their ideas. That’s a change in emphasis from a lot of science classes.”

It’s a change Ali Krubski embraces. And a change that — thanks to modern technology — teachers everywhere can see, and emulate.

(Click here to see Ali Krubski’s Teaching Channel video.)

27 responses to “Channeling Westport Teachers

  1. That was incredible!
    Thanks for sharing Dan.

  2. GrandmaCharityChallenge

    Very impressive! I just came from a meeting where I heard Westport Schools Curriculum Team members talk about Vision 2025 and the planning lens for teachers. Great to see it in practice in the video!

  3. Dan, we were surprised that you didn’t mention that Ali is a Staples grad!

  4. Had no idea this channel existed. After watching Ali’s lesson, I went on and watched 2 more. Thanks, Dan, once again for opening up my world.

  5. I had the same experience as Prill Boyle. Additionally, A.J.Scheetz is one of the most effective and inspirational educators Westport has.
    He furthers the interests and engagement of young scientists whose learning-style is often hands-on. Congratulations to him as well as to Ms. Krubski.

  6. Concerned Parent

    I find this very interesting, as a parent of one of the students in the class. We have been exteremely disappointed with this specific class and the ineffectiveness of the style of teaching. Dr Scheetz has received numerous compliants from parents about the program. All is not what it appears. Don’t by into the marketing material…….

  7. rare commentator

    Wondering why there is such a disconnect between the department chair’s review of this new teaching style, and feedback from the parents of students that are actually in the class. is this just a marketing hype? Does it really work? Would be nice to hear from more parents.

    • Rare – the feedback is from ONE parent, note- parent, not student. I would have been shocked, amazed and stunned if a parent of a Staples student had not complained. This may have to do with a true disagreement over the change in the syllabus from year’s past, but might also have to do with litlle John or Jane’s grade. Why, after all would Westport parents leave education to the professionally trained and clearly articulate teacher? American students lag behind in STEM learning, indicating that a change in approach is required. Why not let this “experiment” in teaching bear some results before throwing it on the junkheap. What is the worst possible outcome? We recently heard from many very successful survivors of ALM French!

      • How do you propose to evaluate the outcome of this “experiment”?

        • So many options;
          CAPT Test comparison scores from those taught by older (rote learning?) methods and those taught under the collaborative method;
          SAT II comparison scores, as above;
          or, over a slightly longer term track the number of Staples Grads who go on to pursue a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math, because a teacher/class INSPIRED them.

        • Those data might reflect a selection bias rather than the efficacy of the program. And if the program does not produce the results anticipated, what do you say to the students who might have been disadvantaged?

  8. I also think it would be fun to have kids teaching other kids.

  9. Gerry Kuroghlian

    Ali is one of many fine teachers who were my colleagues at Staples. I am especially proud of her as she is the result of a great family and a great school system. Ali is teaching her students to think which is a life skill. After 43 years in Westport, a complaining parent was part of the routine. Having students rationally think for themselves is one of the greatest assets a teacher can impart. Brava! Bravo! Staples teachers and SHS students.

  10. Joseph B. Coogan

    Dear “POP”,
    I also am a parent of a student in this class. You state “I would have been shocked, amazed and stunned if a parent of a Staples student had not complained. This may have to do with a true disagreement over the change in the syllabus from year’s past, but might also have to do with litlle John or Jane’s grade.”. Your snide comment is unhelpful in our attempt to have a calm, intelligent discussion of teaching methods. Without knowing this parent, you indict his or her motives. Without knowing this student, you assume the child is underperforming. Then you condescendingly dismiss parental involvement in education “leave education to the professionally trained”.

    Dear Gerry,

    No parent impugned Ms. Krubski’s character, family, or talent as a teacher. The discussion is a concern raised by several parents of students in the class, not as to the potential efficacy of this teaching method (highly computer based, highly student-to-student rather than student-to-teacher instruction). The parents (as discussed in a GROUP meeting in Dr. Sheetz’s office) were concerned that such a method would be more suitable for upper-classmen, and not optimal for first semester freshman students coping with the considerable transition from 8th grade to high school.

  11. http://users.ece.gatech.edu/mleach/myturn/makingthegrade.html

    Mr. Coogan, you may infer any tone to my comment, however a careful reader would note that I did first acknowledge that this might be about something other than a bad grade. As to the history of Staples parents complaining; that is a thing that speaks for itself.
    As my children have all completed high school, I can assure you that I am/was a parent who was concerned and involved, however, I still believe that the professionals should be allowed to have the last word. Too many cooks, etc., and most with a personal slant. Public education is for the many, and not all teaching styles are universal. That Staples students are exposed to many innovative learning styles should be considered a plus.

    Finally – a propos of nothing, my youngest sent the attached article to me this morning. I thought it relevant to this thread, as well as a cautionary tale.

  12. Joseph B. Coogan

    Once again you lead off your comment with an insult “you may infer any tone to my comment, however a careful reader would note”. Once again you make a blanket critical statement about Staples parents “As to the history of Staples parents complaining; that is a thing that speaks for itself”. And once again you blithely dismiss the input from the customers of the education service “I still believe that the professionals should be allowed to have the last word. Too many cooks, etc., and most with a personal slant”. I guess that breathtaking arrogance and poor manners are the luxury of annonymous commentators.

    • Mr. Coogan – you are clearly very passionate about this issue and it is important to you. My comments to the post were generalizations based on past experience at Staples. You have personalized my broad statements and insulted me in return many times over. I hope that in your “calm and intelligent” discussions going forward you don’t label anyone who disagrees with you as breathtakingly arrogant, or lacking in manners.
      Finally, I would implore you to read the link in my previous post, as it provides an alternative view to the student as a “customer of the education service”. I wish you and your children well during their time at Staples. Though not perfect, the great will far outweigh the bad in the end.

  13. rare commentator

    Pop – the link you posted is not relevent to the discussion. There is a big difference between the complaining college kids described in the link article, and the freshman students referred to in Mr. Coogan’s example. Hardly an effective comparison or supportive evidence to your argument.

  14. Joseph B. Coogan

    Dear “POP”
    As stated by me above, “The discussion is a concern raised by several parents of students in the class, not as to the potential efficacy of this teaching method (highly computer based, highly student-to-student rather than teacher-to-student instruction). The parents (as discussed in a GROUP meeting in Dr. Sheetz’s office) were concerned that such a method would be more suitable for upper-classmen, and not optimal for first semester freshman students coping with the considerable transition from 8th grade to high school”. “POP”, if you wish to opine on the topic that is the subject of this blog then I welcome your “professional” insight. And if you wish your annonymous, rude comments to not be flagged as arrogant, then perhaps you should choose to be neither annonymous, rude, nor arrogant.

  15. Westporter since 70's

    OK, so let’s see…Dan…

    You report on a young teacher’s implementation of a curriculum that has apparently be approved and verified up the chain of administration (Sheetz, Dodig, Landon). Parents and community members–anonymous and identified-criticize and comment on this report. You allow anonymous commentators because it stirs the controversy that earns you money.

    But NO ADMINISTRATORS PROVIDE SUPPORT!

    Are you setting up young teachers as stalking horses?

    Why are you putting a young teacher in such a vulnerable position?

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$?

  16. Heaven Borkholder

    Very informative blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Cool.