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September 2, 2011 Greetings From Top Teaching Advisor Mary By Mary Blow
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    I teach 6th grade English at Lowville Academy Middle School in New York's Black River Valley, located in the rolling foothills of the Adirondack Mountains.

    I teach 6th grade English at Lowville Academy Middle School in New York's Black River Valley, located in the rolling foothills of the Adirondack Mountains.

    Lowville is an agriculture-dependent community in the heart of Lewis County, one of the lowest socio-economic counties in our state. Despite economic struggles, Lowville is rich in small town culture, which is attractive to many of the 10th Mountain Division soldiers stationed at nearby Fort Drum. We are pioneers in alternative energy. Not only are we home to the infamous Maple Ridge Wind Farm on Tug Hill, the largest wind farm east of the Mississippi, but we have a nearby biomass plant and a hydropower plant.

    Becoming a teacher was a career change for me. Married and with children, I earned my Associate in Arts degree at Jefferson Community College; a Bachelor of Arts in English and Childhood Education and a Master of Science in Education Literacy Specialist (grades 7-12) at SUNY Potsdam; and my NYS certification to teach English (grades 7-12). This is my third year as the chairperson of the Madison-Oneida Model Schools ELA/SS North Committee. During the summer, I work for the St. Lawrence BOCES, leading professional development workshops and assisting teachers with integrating technology into the classroom.

    This year, I have approximately 110 students, divided into five inclusive sections. My inclusive classrooms are designed so every child can succeed. Whenever possible, I give students voice and choice, encouraging them to take ownership in their learning. My 6th grade students engage in writer's workshops and literature circles, working at their instructional levels while collaborating with peers of all abilities. Mini-lessons target whole class and individual needs. My favorite projects are those where the students are in charge of their learning. When they designed a medieval wiki, they researched a topic, wrote an article, and published it online. The most exciting part of the project was when my 6th graders were invited to present the wiki at a Model School regional technology conference in Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands!
    Each year, I empower my students by having them design a unique project using technology. When our year is finished, I want my students to leave my classroom with a sense of adventure for learning. I want them to believe that barriers can be broken, and that if they are willing to work hard enough, they can be whoever they aspire to be. They will leave knowing that they are a part of our school family, and as such, my door is always open -- now and 20 years from now.

    People might say that my greatest strength is technology. I believe my greatest strength is my passion for learning and my desire to share with and learn from others. Collaborating with colleagues is especially critical in developing curriculum and integrating technology into my classroom. It is my drive to learn from and network with others that has impelled my journey as Scholastic’s 2010-2011 Grade 6-8 Teacher Advisor and their 2011-2012 Common Core and State Assessments Top Teacher Advisor.


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Susan Cheyney