Jean Turney – A World-Class Teacher

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Jean Turney, second-grade teacher at The Biome School, brings a world of experience to her students, literally. Over the course of her professional career, she has worked in a variety of settings within the United States including the suburbs of Potomac, Maryland, the hill country of West Virginia, and south St. Louis, as well as two summers facilitating community development and leadership trainings in Uganda and three years as a Jesuit Volunteer in Belize, Central America.

As an educator, Jean has structured, facilitated and assessed innovative, experiential daily classroom learning for over 20 years across disciplines and grade levels spanning elementary through high school. Through all of her experiences, one consistent element has been to integrate meaningful community service with instruction and reflection. She firmly believes the impact is significant not only for the learner but also for the community because authentic, relevant, engaged service can guide people toward a deeper consciousness of how social justice can promote the common good.

Jean is excited about being part of the Biome School because of the spirit of compassion that exists here. She not only believes in the mission of the Biome, she believes that the energy and commitment of her fellow teachers and administrators will equip every student with the tools and skills to face the challenges ahead of them with intelligence and courage.

In her second grade classroom, Jean is committed to creating a place where her students know they BELONG. A place where they are safe, have some power and can make mistakes and not risk their dignity. She wants them to know they are capable of learning and growing. She wants to enable them to experience that excitement about learning in this classroom, as well as in the community. And she wants them to know that she has high expectations and will never give up on them.

One example of a recent classroom project was teaching students about the August 21st eclipse. Learning included integrating science, math, and literature. Students learned about shadows, did experiments, and read the book Bear Shadow by Frank Asch and poems by Shel Silverstein. Resources from Bill Nye, NASA website, and the school library were also utilized.

During the event, students documented their observations, wrote sentence strips about their observations, and later organized, edited and revised their writing. The lesson plan allowed students to move through the process at their own pace. While some finished right away and moved on to the next project, others required more time.

Jean believes that giving students the time they need to complete a project can help develop their persistence and enable them to have the opportunity of experiences the sense of completion and the pride in their accomplishment. According to Jean, one’s sense of self-esteem is strengthened by genuine accomplishment, not empty praise. She brings this philosophy to life every day in her classroom.