Rocky Mountain High School Principal Tim Winland presented the Outstanding Educator Award for Big Horn County School District No. 1 to RMHS English teacher John Samuels at the annual Lovell Area Chamber of Commerce Spring Dinner and Awards Banquet held on Friday, April 11. Samuels has been with the district since 2008, after being recruited by Winland from Idaho.
“When I was asked to nominate a teacher from my building for the 2014 Wyoming Teacher of the Year, one name stood out in my mind, and that was John Samuels,” said Winland. “John has taken his teaching abilities to another level while providing a culture of respect within his classroom.
“For the past three years John has taught college composition and college literature as an adjunct faculty member at Northwest College. For three years we have been able to offer college courses on our own campus thanks to John’s professionalism and expertise in his content area. Our students have benefited from having been taught by Mr. Samuels in a number of ways. Mr. Samuels provides rigor and relevance, not just for college classes but for underclassmen, as well. He inspires students to want to become great writers and to appreciate the classics in literature.”
Winland noted the district has focused both on implementation of the Common Core Standards and on raising ACT scores in recent years, and Samuels has been instrumental in preparing students to be competitive in those areas.
“John has provided leadership within the language arts area and was instrumental in proctoring ACT practice tests this year through Cambridge Educational Services,” he said. “John developed an individualized learning plan for each student, and sent information home to parents outlining how their child could best prepare and improve on the ACT test. As a result, our junior class improved their scores by three to five points on the ACT.
“Likewise, John understands the concepts behind the new Common Core Standards. John’s teaching hasn’t had to change much, because he has always taught to a higher standard.”
The school district recently shifted its priority to improving a “culture of respect” where students feel safe and comfortable in their learning environment.
“As mentioned before, John provides a culture of respect within his classroom and throughout the school,” said Winland. “This year John organized activities during lunch hour that provided a place for students to participate in card games. John created an atmosphere where students felt safe and a sense of belonging, mingling with each other and finding common ground. As an administrator and parent, I appreciate John’s willingness to spend his lunch hour with students. Efforts and activities like this build connections with students, which contribute to the overall mental health of each child which leads to a safe environment and culture of respect.”
On the school’s webpage Samuels was quoted to have said, “I believe the purpose of the English educator is twofold: to broaden each student’s understanding of what it means to be human, and help learn how to effectively share their experiences and ideas. Our first charge could not be more critical in today’s world.”
By Patti Carpenter