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Teachers Network Leadership Institute: Affiliates: MetLife Fellows: Wyoming

MetLife Fellows Bios

Susan Cogdill is the Choral Music instructor at Laramie Junior High School in Laramie, Wyoming; she has eight years teaching experience. Susan’s educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Wyoming and a Master’s in Music Education (Choral Emphasis) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is currently enrolled in the University of Wyoming’s Educational Leadership program as a result of her work in the Wyoming Teacher Policy Institute. Susan’s previous research as a WTPI Fellow focused on staff development and its effects on transforming school community. In pursuing this type of community Susan considered the following questions: Does empowering leadership among the teachers make the school more productive? How do you enroll the teachers into this possible shared ownership? What makes an effective leader? Do valued teachers produce valued
students? How does the concept “pay it forward” work in the school system? Susan’s project begins to answer these large but important questions.

Barb Deshler teaches 4th and 5th grades at the UW Lab School, or “Prep,” on the University of Wyoming campus. The school is a multi-age school serving grades K-9, with K-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, and 8-9 combinations. Barb has been teaching for about fourteen years and although she does not consider herself very "savvy" with computers, her research topic last year had to do with how teaching 4th and 5th graders how to keyboard with accuracy and efficiency affected their writing. Barb discovered, for one, that most 4th and 5th graders will write more text using the computer than they will using paper and pencil. This year Barb hopes to look into the possible effect that keyboarding has on the quality of student writing

Mauro E. Diaz writes:
This is my second year teaching Life Science at Dean Morgan J.H. in Casper, Wyoming. I previously taught three years at I.S. 162 in the South Bronx by way of the New York City Teaching Fellows. My research interest is in determining how effective technology, like GPS and GIS, can be in performing scientific inquiry.

Note on photo: Pictured: Nichol Elder, WTPI participant and PeaceJam sponsor; LHS Students in attendance at PeaceJam conference; Nobel Laureate Rigaberta Menchu Tum.

I’m Nichol Elder. I’ve taught for six years, two at an alternative school in Las Cruces, NM and four at Laramie High School in Laramie, WY, where I presently teach. I’m an English/Language Arts teacher, and I teach World Literature, Writer’s Workshop, AP Literature, Writing Skills, British Literature, Advanced American Literature, Humanities, English 10, and Science Fiction. I also sponsor two high school clubs, Amnesty International and PeaceJam, both of which focus on nonviolent communication, overcoming human rights violations, and greater involvement with local and community service projects. I have three bachelor degrees from University of Wyoming: in English, Secondary Education, and Women’s Studies. My research project with the Wyoming Teacher Policy Institute carries forward much of what my career and my undergraduate work also focused towards. Last year, I looked into how service learning or community involvement would best be implemented in a secondary school setting. My findings from interviewing students, ethnographic research, and textual support, suggest that an optional classroom setting would benefit a wide range of the student-population. With assistance from colleagues and student-input, I created a course, “Communication for Change,” which incorporates research, journaling, public speaking, and book studies with service learning projects created by the students in the class. In spring, 2007, I hope to implement this course at LHS as a “zero” hour, “enrichment,” or LEEP course. My research questions the implications of the course on student learning and school climate. I’m also wanting to research other methods of implication of service learning in school environments.

Deb Hofmeier is a third grade instructor at Tongue River Elementary School in Ranchester, Wyoming. Deb also serves as the Summer School Director for Sheridan County School District #1. Her educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, a Master’s in Natural Science and a Principal Endorsement. Deb has been teaching at the elementary level for 25 years and has always puzzled over the success or lack of success of students who attend summer school. She wanted to find a model that would work to bring achievement levels in reading and math up, or at the very least a model that would prevent the summer "slide" in skills that is so common in students. An opportunity arose during the summer of 2006 to create a program that included both remediation and enrichment for students in grades Pre K through 8th grade. Such a program was created and implemented using researched brain based practices. A total of 130 students participated and data is being collected to determine the success of the program.

Joanie James has been teaching for 32 years with experience in the kindergarten classroom, special education resource room, and fourth and fifth grades. Joanie is a second year MetLife fellow in the Teachers Network Leadership Institute in Wyoming. She graduated from Northern Michigan University with a B.A. in Special Education and a M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wyoming. She is currently working towards her PhD in Curriculum & Instruction. Joanie currently teaches at UW Lab School which is a democratic school following the ideas of John Dewey.

I am Rhonda Johnson, and I teach at Laramie Junior High School in Laramie, Wyoming. I am in my 16th year of teaching, and I've had the pleasure of teaching English and communications at the middle school/junior high, high school and college levels throughout my teaching career. I received my undergraduate degree in
English/communications education from the University of Wyoming and my Curriculum and Instruction master's from Idaho State University. My research question this year is one focused on the impact of teacher transformation on student achievement.

Nancy Merrill teaches Mathematics (Algebra 1, 2, 1A and 2A) at Big Horn High School in Big Horny, WY. Nancy’s educational background includes a BA from the University of Colorado in Mathematics, and a MSNS from the University of Wyoming with an emphasis in math and computers. Nancy’s research interests as a WTPI Fellow include The Effects and Implications of an Incentive Pay Program and The Results and Implications of an Innovative Summer School Program Implemented in the Summer, 2006.

Sukey Ross writes:
Welcome to my world. I am a third grade teacher in a small (200 student K-5 ) rural school. Since I have a strong background in science (Forestry degree, Bachelors and Masters Degree in Science). I have brought my love of the natural world into the classroom over my twenty eight years of teaching. Even more exciting is taking my classroom out into our natural world. This summer I was involved with our districts summer school program through an outdoor education component. My action research is to follow up on this different style of summer school that included remediation and enrichment so see how it impacted the performance and attitudes of the students as they returned to the regular classroom setting this fall. I look forward to gaining more insight and information to improve our educational system.

Hello! My name is Dan Sawyer, and I am a teacher at Johnson Jr. High School in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I have been a teacher for 14 years, and have been teaching mathematics at Johnson for the last 7 years. I received my Bachelor of Science (College of Education) in 1992 from the University of Wyoming. I received my Master of Science (College of Health Sciences) in 1998 from the University of Wyoming. My research interests include anything and everything that can help to make our school better. Currently, I am particularly interested in any research or action research that focuses on LEARNING.

Tascha Smith I teaches at Johnson Junior High School in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Johnson is one of the few Title One junior high schools in the state. In order to meet AYP, the school began administering monthly writing assessments; the first month the students did poorly so the decision was made to reward the students who earned a proficient score or better. Tascha has spent the past year—and will continue this year—researching the affects of rewards on student writing. Tascha holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in Humanities and Fine Arts from the University of Wyoming and is working on a Masters in Integrating Teaching through the Arts from Lesley University. She states that she is loving every minute of her program.

Serving the Journeys School of Jackson, WY in many capacities, Kjera Strom has recently joined other inspiring Wyoming educators to explore educational policy. The Journeys School (www.journeysschool.org) is a unique preK-12 independent school whose mission is “integrating ecology, culture and community to ensure academic excellence and personal success”. Kjera works towards this as a student advisor, preK-2nd grade Spanish teacher and upper school Spanish teacher. This fall, Kjera led a group of high school students on a backpacking trip in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming exploring personal strengths and each individual’s role in the community. Kjera graduated Magna Cum Laude from Utah State University with a B.S. in both English and Spanish Teaching and has studied in Mazatlán, México. Kjera recently completed her Masters of Education with an emphasis in Literacy through Lesley University. Her final project reflected her interest in community connections through bicultural/bilingual exchanges. Kjera claims Wisconsin as "home" but admits to a gyspy-style childhood exploring the United States. Kjera is not only an outdoor enthusiast, but also enjoys traveling to and studying Latino cultures. Last year she worked closely with environmental educators in Baja California. Her current research interests include world language assessment in a preK-12 program, bilingual/bicultural exchanges and the impact of a Spanish program for teachers. If you’re traveling through Jackson Hole, Kjera is always looking for interesting educators to ride the chairlift and take Western swing dancing!

My name is Suzanne Szabo and I teach 7th grade English at Johnson Jr. High School in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I am interested in teacher collaboration, and in particular, its effect on students’ literacy. Christy Van Horn and I are extremely lucky to be on a team together in our school, so we are fortunate enough to work jointly on our action research to track our students’ progress and connections between content areas. Along with our fellow team teachers we are making progress on core-wide journaling—the “Brain Books.” So far, we all really love our “brain-based” journaling concept, and will continue to follow the progression of our “brain child” as part of our action research.

Christy Wright teaches World History at Big Horn Middle/High School in Big Horn, Wyoming. She also serves as the high school’s Activities Director, Dean of Students and the Middle School Improvement Chair. Christy’s educational background includes a BA from the University of Wyoming and a MA from Grand Canyon University. Her research interests focus the effectiveness of summer school instruction.


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