“There are so many amazing teachers out there doing incredible things every day that to be singled out for recognition feels unbelievable. I love being a teacher. Teaching science to middle school students is the best job I can imagine but I could not do it alone. Kari Dendurent, my principal, is always willing to support whichever crazy idea I have. My co-teachers inspire me every day and the kids keep showing up excited to learn science. I hope to continue to grow my craft and never stop learning.” – Jen Booz
Ms. Jen Booz teaches science and robotics to eighth graders at Homer Middle School. She has been a teacher for 11 years, all in Alaska.
Principal Kari Dendurant says that that Ms. Booz is known for her positive rapport with students, and all the students at Homer Middle School. But it’s not just her principal who believes this. A student writes, “She is helpful and the best science teacher. Ms. Booz makes everyone happy. She’s a really awesome, cool and healthy person to be around.”
Ms. Booz coaches cross-country running and works with all types of athletes to encourage a healthy lifestyle. She knows that being a member of a team helps her student-athletes integrate well into the other areas of their schooling. So she brings this sense of team into her classroom.
“I consciously create an environment of blended and project-based learning in my class,” she tells us, “to allow students the freedom to make choices in their learning.”
Ms. Booz creates a module-style structure, in which students are provided with content through a variety of sources, then progress at their own pace, moving ahead as they complete each component. So each student is responsible for his or her own learning, but also works with peers in small groups.
Their teacher monitors progress through CANVAS, the District Learning Management System. By blending the learning process, Ms. Booz is freed up to work one-on-one with these small groups or individuals. She says, “As a science teacher, I want students to experience ‘real science’ whenever possible. The project-based learning model I have adopted utilize community interaction, relevant topics and authentic products.”
One example of her approach was a project in which students made a presentation to a professional in the community over Skype. They received feedback directly from the professional, which was a very powerful moment for both them and their teacher.
Another example had meaning closer to home. Ms. Booz says, “In Homer, many of our families fish commercially, so when we coupled science skills and chemistry, we investigated the best methods to clean oil spills. Many of our students’ parents have been trained in oil-spill clean-up, so this project had real-life application.”
“I believe Jen Booz makes a difference in public education because she brings the love of learning and science to every 8th grade student at Homer Middle School,” said Kari Dendurant, principal. “As a result of students having Ms. Booz as their teacher they are encouraged and inspired to be innovative to make our world a better place. Students do not ever hear no from Ms. Booz, rather they hear why?, how? and what do you think? And most importantly, I believe in you. She is a true inspiration!”
Ms. Booz earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware, and a master’s degree in education from Eastern Oregon University. She began her work in science during college when she was awarded a field internship. After leaving Delaware, she traveled around the country doing field research in ornithology, and also worked as a field biologist for state, federal and academic institutions.
These positions gave her real-life experience as a scientist, lessons she tries to give her students through the blended learning she implements in class.
Ms. Booz also devotes herself to Homer’s students outside of class, serving on several school and district committees and the Innovation Committee, Personalized Learning Council and National Junior Honor Society.
“I am very proud of all our finalists for this prestigious award,” said Sean Dusek, superintendent. “They all embody the qualities we want all of our teachers to exhibit, especially in how they ensure a strong, positive relationship with each and every student. Each finalist is very deserving of this recognition and I look forward to their continued excellence and leadership in our district.”
Congratulations, Jen Booz, 2018 BP Teacher of Excellence.
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