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TOY Stories Blog: Connecting Students with the World Around Them

By Ryan Kaiser

BaltimoreCityRyanKaiser2015I come from a family of teachers. My grandmother taught elementary school and both my parents were teachers and educational administrators. It was almost a given that I would become a teacher.

Much like my own upbringing, I strongly believe that connecting the students with the world around them in vital, during and beyond the school year. What I feel has been my most important contribution to date has been my drive to provide students with fun, engaging, cross-curricular, hands-on, experiential learning units that mirror that of a family’s summer vacation plans.

I firmly believe that in order for students to get the best education, the teacher must communication and develop strong relationships with all key community stakeholders; utilize the community as an educational foundation; and help the students embrace, enhance, and preserve the community for years to come. In each school where I’ve worked, I have developed long-lasting positive relationships with community members, including colleagues, parents, students, business owners, and other key community leaders. I use these relationships as a resource for the students.

My approach to teaching mirrors the way I view the world: Everything is connected and interrelated. I believe that it is my task as an educator to develop experiences that will allow students to see the world that surrounds them through a critical lens. Even though my title is social studies teacher, I believe that my job—and the job of every teacher—is to help students make the connections that already exist between our various content areas. Not only have my own personal experiences taught me that this approach is extremely successful, but studies have demonstrated improved academic outcomes for students taught using a hands-on, thematic approach, as opposed to a traditional textbook approach.

Ryan Kaiser is a Social Studies Teacher at The Mt. Washington School and the Maryland 2015-16 Teacher of the Year.