Slaton Junior High finalist for national award - FOX34 Lubbock

Slaton Junior High finalist for national award

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SLATON, Texas -

Typically, the word ‘cluster’ is associated with disorganization. However, at Slaton Junior High it is the basis of education, in the form of a “cluster room” for teachers to learn and bounce ideas off each other.

“It is about learning our craft and being better at what we do and we get to measure our teacher’s progress by looking at their practice and they get to do the same things,” explained Jim Andrus, Principal of Slaton Junior High.

Brad Hays teaches seventh grade math and has seen the importance of the room over his four years at the school.

“It gives us opportunities to have a new tool in our toolbox to go try out. It’s a very supportive situation,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to bounce ideas off each other.”

The school is one of five finalists for the TAP Founder’s Award through the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), an award that honors teacher and student progress.

“We are I think more surprised than anyone because we just kind of keep our nose to the grindstone and do what we do. Its is a very proud moment for us,” said Andrus.

Before the program was brought into the district, the school had a lot of teachers turnover.

"Our population needed some more structures behind it and we looked at the TAPs resource system as something that was really beneficial,” added Andrus.

Rebecca Castillo is a seventh grade reading teacher, who has been teaching at Slaton for five years. During that time she has seen improvements.

"I was an OK teacher when I came here and then afterward, learning new things, new strategies, I feel like I've grown a lot,” said Castillo.

“For me I always say it's not me it's the students. Anytime I'm recognized I'm just doing the best I can and the students do the work,” added Hays when asked about how it felt to be recognized for his work.

Castillo grew up a Tiger and describes the culture of the school like a family.

“We look like a family. We talk to the kids; they come to us when they have a problem. When they don't understand anything they ask for help,” she explained.

The winner of the award will be announced by the NIET on March 23rd. The winner will receive $50,000 to put toward school improvements.

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