|Wellington teacher receives Golden Apple Award|
|Written by Deborah Stone|
|Monday, 04 March 2013 14:12|
KCTS Channel 9 recently announced the winners of the annual Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Education, celebrating educators, programs and schools making a positive difference in Washington State education from early childhood through high school.
Among the recipients of this distinguished honor is Bob Whittemore, a sixth grade teacher at Wellington Elementary.
The local man has been with the Northshore School District since 1995, teaching in the PACE program at Wellington.
He was a founding member of the popular program and has been one of its driving forces.
According to Bill Bagnall, Principal of Wellington, Whittemore creates an open learning environment within his classroom. He extends learning for his students and works closely with parents to provide enrichment opportunities for all.
He adds, “Bob draws upon his training and his life experiences in order to create meaningful lessons and projects for his students. Beyond the classroom, Bob serves on our school’s Leadership Team and also supervised an after school Math Club.”
Whittemore is known for setting high standards for his students and motivating them to do their best by letting them know he believes in their capabilities.
As a result, many not only meet, but exceed school district expectations. He says, “I am a demanding teacher and place huge expectations on my students, but try to make the work interesting enough to make it less burdensome. If the state expects students to jump one foot high, I’m asking them to jump four. Even if they don’t meet the class expectation, they will surpass the sate goal.”
Students thrive in Whittemore’s class because of the environment he creates in his classroom.
He describes it as an atmosphere that emphasizes freedom, but notes that along with this freedom comes more responsibility, which ultimately prepares kids for junior high and beyond.
Parent Brigitta Suwandana, whose son Michael Sutanto is currently in Whittemore’s class, says, “He gives his students a lot of freedom while teaching them to be responsible for their behavior and duties. His students know when to be quiet and do their work and when they can be more social. It is a unique classroom atmosphere that gives the students a lot of learning opportunities while preparing them to be at the junior high.”
She adds, “He helps them to identify their strengths and to work on their weaknesses. He treats his students individually and doesn’t put them in a box.”
Gayle Hickey, another parent whose son Miles, now 14, had Mr. Whittemore in both 5th and 6th grade, speaks glowingly of the award-winning educator.
She wishes that he could be cloned so that other students could reap the benefits of his tutelage.
She comments that kids learn much more than academics from Whittemore.
“If anything,” she says, “every student leaves his classroom knowing how to organize their time, better than most adults, which is a valuable tool to have in school, besides life. They have no choice but to figure this out — the workload Bob gives them is pretty large, yet he makes it so stimulating.”
Hickey continues to explain that Whittemore has the ability to connect with kids via different modalities, adding, “He has a masters degree in art so he can reach students through their artistic side or their logical side, to grasp higher concepts.”
She notes that this is especially evident in the subject of math, adding, “Students who previously did not have good math skills leave his classroom with a much better grasp of it, along with other subjects. Most end up in honors or double honors math in junior high and continue on with their math advancements.”
The local educator is highly creative and encourages his students to think outside the box.
He employs an innovative approach to the curriculum and engages his class in a variety of stimulating, multi-level projects that combine math, science, social studies, art and writing.
For example, students construct hot air balloons from their own calculations and then proceed to test and fly them at school. They study space travel and create their own Mars space station in a report, complete with details regarding sleeping arrangements, food prep and cultivation and waste disposal and recycling methods.
A similar process is used in the creation of an underwater city with a field trip to the Naval Undersea Museum for research purposes.
The kids also design a mock sailing trip and “travel” with their classmates in small groups, while learning about the cities and ports they stop at along their route.
At the completion of this project, the class takes a field trip on a large sailboat for the day in Puget Sound.
Vocabulary is important to Whittemore and each day he presents a new word for his students to learn.
Throughout the year, they also write their own original stories and poetry.
On a weekly basis, the kids must do a current event synopsis from a news article of their choice.
“He loves it when kids debate amongst themselves on a topic,” comments Hickey. “You would think his is a college class if you entered it because the kids have much freedom of expression when it comes to giving their opinions.”
Parents are welcome in Whittemore’s class and he has an open door policy.
According to Suwandana, the local educator relates to parents as partners in helping ensure their children’s success.
“Not only in 6th grade,” she adds, “but moving forward going into the real world.”
She notes that parents can stop by Whittemore’s class and he is always willing to provide updates about their children.
“He works with us in solving problems regarding our kids’ academic achievement, struggles or behaviors,” she says.
The beloved educator enjoys working with sixth graders and finds them fun to teach because they are at the stage where they can and should assume the responsibility for their own lives.
He takes particular joy in helping them along their individual paths.
When Whittemore heard he had won the Golden Apple, he was very surprised, but comments that he was more amazed by the number of people who nominated him for the award, including several former students and parents.
He says, “This award is a nice testament to the influence that people are acknowledging that I had on them. Teachers should all get this kind of recognition.”