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Walnut valley Unified School District

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Walnut Valley teacher tests out learning strategies

Walnut Highlander
By Richard Irwin SGVN twitter.com/richirwinsgvn
September 19, 2012
http://www.sgvtribune.com/highlanders/walnut/ci_21582437/walnut-valley-teacher-tests-out-learning-strategies

Walnut Valley teacher tests out learning strategies

It's not about the test results; it's about the learning. If you teach students how to learn, good test results will follow.

Social studies teacher Alan Haskvitz believes that students will achieve at a high level if you give them the tools to learn. The Suzanne Middle School instructor equips them with study skills that carry over to every subject.

And it's hard to argue with the results. Walnut Valley reports STAR scores far above the state average. Known as STAR, or Standardized Testing and Reporting, the results are measured in five categories: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic and far below basic.

Statewide, the number of students proficient in English increased by 2.8 percent compared to last year - from 54.4 percent to 57.2 percent, according to the 2012 results released on Aug. 31. And in math, test scores showed California students improved by 1.1 percent, up to 51.5 percent.

Walnut Valley Unified recorded the highest scores in the San Gabriel Valley with 80.1 percent in English and 77.1 percent in math.

"Out of my 173 students, only six didn't rank as advanced," Haskvitz noted. Which is something one might expect from a teacher who has been inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame and was named educator of the year by the California League of Middle Schools last year.

The local teacher also received the Robert Cherry International Award for Great Teachers.  But while many awards line his classroom at Suzanne Middle School, Haskvitz seems most proud of the letters from former students posted by the door. The letters invariably thank the veteran teacher for teaching them how to really learn.

When we entered his eighth-grade history class, students were juggling rolled up athletic socks. Fatema Marui, 13, explained that juggling teaches him to concentrate on the task at hand.

"Mr. Haskvitz challenges us to work harder," said classmate Farhan Baig, who hopes to become an engineer some day.

The students said they have to work hard because they're tested every Wednesday and Friday. "He challenges you to do your best and encourages you," agreed 13-year-old Karina Chiu, who gets straight A's. 

Other students were using computers to look up answers for their homework assignment. Haskvitz assigns homework every day, in fact, the week's assignments were listed on the blackboard up front.

"I survey the students at the end of the year to get their feedback on my class," Haskvitz said.

"One year, they complained that I gave them too much homework, so I've cut back on the daily assignments." Still everyone has to work hard to get the coveted "I survived Haskvitz" T-shirt. "At first, I thought he was too tough," admitted James Johnson.

"But he's a good teacher, who taught me how to take better notes." The 13-year-old eighth-grader has used his new study skills to bring up his grades from B's and C's to A's.

"Mr. Haskvitz is one of my favorite teachers because he teaches so differently," said student Ankur Singh. "He teaches you how to teach yourself.”


Shown:

Social Studies Teacher Alan Haskvitz watches students juggle during class at Suzanne Middle School in Walnut. (Staff photo by Watchara Phomicinda)

 

Social Studies Teacher Alan Haskvitz lectures in front of T-shirt inscribed I survived Haskvitz at Suzanne Middle School in Walnut.