Silver Apple Award: Robert Lane

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Sierra Verde teacher Robert Lane Sierra Verde teacher Robert Lane

3TV's Javier Soto presented Sierra Verde's 3rd grade teacher Robert Lane with the 3TV Silver Apple Award for Excellence in Education. 

His 8-year-old student, Samuel nominated him because "he always tries his best and expects us to do the same." In Samuel's nomination letter he continues to say that he "supports us and is excited when we are doing something well."

Mr. Lane shares a passion for teaching and continues to inspire his students everyday. We asked him to share some of his experiences with us.

Mr. Lane thanked 3TV for the amazing honor and said it was an award for the students by the students. "They push me each day to give them my best. Nobody comes into my classroom as loud as myself (as you can tell we live by three rules: we will be loud, we will laugh, and we will learn). I am humbled that my students would even consider me for this honor. This is a total team award and I cannot wait to see them on television tomorrow morning."

City of Residence: Glendale, Arizona via Portland, Maine

Why did you decide to get into teaching?  My high school basketball coach/mentor (Coach David Brenner) was always pushing me towards a career in education. Coach Brenner was always telling me how much I would love it as a teacher and basketball coach. Spending a lot of time with him over the years I saw firsthand the impact he had on so many lives. Wherever we went he knew someone or somebody knew someone he knew. The thing I loved about these experiences were all of the stories he had about the kids that he had the opportunity to teach/coach over the years. There is no way a single person could ever measure his impact on all of the lives he had touched over the course of his career. I just wanted to be like him in every sense of the word. Personally, I could never explain in words the impact he has on my own life, my own children's lives, and the lives of my students. I wanted to have an equal impact on the lives of my students, be the teacher that every student remembers, and at the end of the day have students share their favorite stories about our classroom experiences. Coach Brenner always told me that each and every day would be something different. I wanted to be a part of the different every day of my professional life. 

What is your favorite teaching moment?  When I first became a teacher my vision was to teach and coach sports. Once I stepped into the classroom I saw there was a dire need for academic programs after school that challenged kids, allowed them to be creative, and an opportunity for the students to join something that wasn't sports related. At my old school the gifted teacher (Miss Smith) brought to my attention a Rubik's Cube competition that was coming up at ASU West. I looked at it as a challenge for myself to solve the Rubik's Cube and provide an academic opportunity for all kids. I started coaching a 6th-8th grade team with dreams that we would compete in the state competition in a couple of months. We had thirty-five kids sign up for the club. All of a sudden the Rubik's Cube Club was the most popular club on campus. The kids absolutely loved the club and it was the highlight of their week. I still had the challenge of getting 8 kids to be able to solve the cube for the tournament. Wherever I went on campus kids were having cube battles with each other, teachers were getting in on the action and learning how to solve the cube, and parents wanted to be able to do what their kids were doing by solving the cubes. At the end of the club we had over twenty-five kids solving the cubes. We had had to have a school tournament just to decide who our eight fastest cubers were. Once our team was set I could not wait to see how we did in the state tournament. We got to ASU West and my students felt like they were in a different world being on a college campus. They loved the fact that there was a game room, a Starbucks in the library, and that the students lived on campus. We were in the first heap of cubers. They started reading of the names and schools. My heart started to drop thinking my students would not feel like this mission was a success. I have never been so nervous for a group of kids. If you have never attended a Rubik's Cube tournament it is something you need to experience. The crowd is going nuts, every twist of the cube means everything, and a tenth of a second makes all of the difference. My kids were not fazed. The timer started and the kids were off. They could not be fazed by everything going on around them. They finished first in our heap. The crowd went nuts, our fans were holding up signs, and I had to do everything in my power to keep the kids hands on the table due to the fact that they were so excited. I looked into the crowd and I am a pretty sure I saw a lot of tears because people were so proud of our school. The kids received all of this recognition and respect they rightfully deserved. That is a day I hope stays with them the rest of their lives. We ended up finishing third overall. We got an oversized check for $50.00 dollars and we were on top of the world. Four years later Miss Flores and Miss Horton have spent an endless amount of time keeping the club going at my old school. I think the work they have done is what I am most proud of. This past weekend ASU West held the Rubik's Cube competition. The tournament has exploded with over fifty teams competing in three different divisions. My current school lost to my old school where it all started and I could not have been happier for those students, my friends, and former colleagues.

How did you feel when you realized you won the Sliver Apple award? I was humbled that my students would even consider me for an award like this. There are so many AMAZING educators in Arizona that are more deserving of this award. I have worked with so many amazing people that have inspired me. This award is also a reflection of their greatness and I would not be who I am as an educator without them. This year we have focused on being a team as a class and what does it truly mean to be a part of something bigger than oneself. We call our classroom Sierra Valley a play on Silicon Valley. The students have their own engineering teams within our classroom. This is an award for the students by the students. They are the real stars. They push me to challenge them day in and day out. They are always hungry for more. I am convinced that these 3rd graders will rise to every challenge that is presented to them. I cannot count how many times a teacher has come up to me to congratulate me on the students success, inquire how something went in our classroom, or just listen in awe as I share stories of their trials and tribulations. I am merely the steam and they are the engine that continues blazing their own trail. I am just thankful to have the best seat in the house for the greatest show on earth.

What do you plan on doing with the $500 grant?  In the fall we competed in the First Lego League competition. There was a teamwork portion, a research portion, and a robotics portion. The students did such an amazing job in all three aspects of this competition. I have been trying to think what is the next thing for these engineers? I found this amazing project on Khan Academy where a teacher in Silicon Valley started teaching robots starting with the atom, learning about engines, and focusing on the variables of change. The kids absolutely loved it and learned so much from the project. It is one thing to program a robot today, but now they need to understand how do motors work and why they do certain things happen? I am also in love with the Spherro and the education pack they have for students. A lot of coding and seeing all of the different motors moving. It will be one of these two programs. I do not know which one it will be. This is what is next for my 3rd graders thanks to the support you have shown for these amazing students. This will be something that will have a lasting impact for many years to come.

Please share one of your best practices in the classroom with us. I am in love with Zaption!!! It is my favorite thing I use in my classroom. It forces kids to pay attention to the video that is playing. Students can no longer just sit and check out during a video. They are active participants during the entire video. My students love it and I use it in all of my subjects. It may be the easiest thing to use. If you are not using Zaption you are totally missing out on the greatest engagement tool there is. I have one student in particular that always provides the deepest insight, but she never shares it with the class. I look forward to her responses and it provides her an outlet to have her voice heard. I have been using it with our weekly reading story. As a teacher my level of understanding of what they know and need to work on is PRICELESS!!! I just take a YouTube video. I can add questions throughout the YouTube video. The kids can ask questions during the video, they can have discussions, and they have the freedom to communicate as a whole group. I can show student responses to see if everyone understands or I can stop and elaborate on that particular thing before we move on. I cannot rave enough about this product and I hope you are utilizing it in your classroom. 

What advice, if any, would you give to new teachers starting their career in the teaching industry? Stay hungry. Stay foolish. They say the new billionaire is the one who effects a billion lives. You may not become a billionaire in the dollar sense as a teacher, but you will change the world in ways you will never be able to imagine or understand. Always think outside the box and create the classroom that you would want as a student. If you are not having fun teaching it you know your students are not having fun learning it. Your classroom is your canvas and you get to start with a blank canvas each August. Enjoy the journey, embrace the speed bumps, and be the champion that every student needs at that point in their life. Always be willing to try something new. Challenge yourself every day. Celebrate all of your student’s successes and be the first one to pick them up when they fall just short of the mark. When enough credible people tell me I cannot do something with my 3rd graders that is when I know it is time to try it. Be the one!!! A lot of teachers say they can call it a career when they know they have changed one life. You should want to set the goal of being that ONE teacher for EVERY student who walks into your classroom. Be the one that they all talk about forty years from now reminiscing about the impact you had on their lives, the career path they choose, or how they live their life today because of the foundation you set before them. Always know that your students will always teach you more about life than you could ever teach them in 180 days. 

What was the greatest life lesson you've learned through your teaching experience that has affected your personal life? I remember it like it was yesterday. It was my first year of teaching. It was the first day of school. I am getting pumped because I am ready to change the world. I am reciting the pledge in my mind because I do not want to mess that up on my first day as a teacher. I am teaching 6th grade science at the time. An amazing aspiring female scientist walks up to me and says “we are going to be enemies.” I look at her and think she is a brave kiddo. Why are we going to be enemies? I catch my breath and ask the question I did not want to ask. “Why are we going to be enemies?” She tells me because you are a Celtics fan and I am a Lakers fan. A huge sigh of relief on my part. Over time I remember the tables were turned and I asked her one day “why do you always give 110%?” She told me a story about her parents only having a 6th grade education and she wanted to never settle for less because her parents were not afforded the same opportunities she had. From that moment on I knew I could never accept anything but my absolute best in and out of the classroom. That is a moment that defined me as a teacher, husband, parent, and friend.

"I cannot thank you enough and AZ Family for all you do for recognizing teachers throughout the state.

There are so many AMAZING educators and I wish they all could have a moment just like this."

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