Cascades Academy Independent School PK-12
The Magic of Insanely Great Teachers
The Magic of Insanely Great Teachers

This month we, not only as a school but as a nation, celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week. I'd like to extend my personal thanks to our Parents Association and Cascades Academy families who honored our teachers so beautifully and graciously earlier in the month. From abundant breakfasts to take-home meals, we all felt your love and appreciation. Thank you!

I have been reflecting a lot this month on the magic of effective teachers. Plenty of empirical evidence and meta analysis exists to support the conclusion that effective teachers have a significant impact on student learning. But less "data" exists about the impact teachers have on students' daily lives, their motivations, their educational aspirations, or their self-actualization. This kind of influence is often more intuitive - more seen or felt through personal interactions and anecdotes - as compared to quantifiable through achievement results.

I have been struck by this idea in particular over the last few weeks as I have watched the many ways that our teachers engage and influence our students both inside and outside the classroom. And, I wanted to share some of the examples that have recently moved me:

It's not every teacher who would embrace planning and leading a ten-day international trip that involves place-based learning opportunities, service learning, outdoor adventures, and long car rides with teenagers! And, in preparation for that experience, puts together a personal journal for every student. Thank you, upper school faculty.

It's not every teacher who cares enough about writing to encourage her middle school students to enter the Bend Bulletin's Words Matter student essay contest only to have three of her students take three of the five top middle school writing prizes. Thank you, Mrs. Schroeder.

It's not every teacher who manages to inspire middle school students through her own passion for science to give up their weekend to compete at the Northwest Science Expo in Portland. Thank you, Dr. Eklund.

It's not every teacher who helps students re-imagine who they can be and what kinds of things they can succeed at through such programs as Mock Trial or Robotics. Thank you, Ms. Thomas and Mr. Snape.

It's not every teacher who is willing to camp out overnight with thirty-five 2nd and 3rd graders on the floor of the school commons in order to ease fears and help prepare students for an unforgettable Camp Collins traveling school experience. Thank you Ms. Fiore, Ms. Letersky, and Mr. A.

It's not every track and field coach who sends an email out after every track meet highlighting individual accomplishments for every athlete. Thank you, Coach Megan.

The truth is that I could highlight something truly unique and impactful that each and every one of our teachers has done for our students over the last month. And as I have witnessed these authentic interactions and notable efforts, I keep coming back to a phrase that Steve Jobs used to introduced the Macintosh computer in 1984: "Insanely Great." This phrase embodies the kind of impact our teachers have on our students' lives - not only in the big ways that result in culmination projects or unforgettable traveling schools - but also in the more minute daily interactions that influence each student's sense of self.

I am often asked what is the value of an independent school education. What is it worth? It sometimes seems more quantifiable to talk about small class sizes as one example of value. But, that always falls short of what that really means and the kind of impact it has our our students' lives. If your child has ever had an experience here at Cascades Academy that they just would not have had anywhere else, if your child has tried something they would never have normally have wanted to try, or if your child's teacher knows and values your child in a way that feels like family, then you have experienced first-hand the power of insanely great teachers at Cascades Academy. This kind of utmost competence, deep passion, and authentic compassion is often not quantifiable. But, I do believe it's magical.

This is the value of the teacher, who looks at a face and says there's something behind that and I want to reach that person, I want to influence that person, I want to encourage that person, I want to enrich, I want to call out that person who is behind that face, behind that color, behind that language, behind that tradition, behind that culture. I believe you can do it. I know what was done for me.
- Maya Angelou

-Julie Amberg, Head of School


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