Erica Quale’s goal is to make U.S. history relevant to her students’ lives. She emphasizes collaboration, instills confidence and encourages students to find creative ways to demonstrate their learning. Wachter has been working to incorporate project-based learning into curriculum for seven years, and Quale has been a leader in that effort. During a unit on westward expansion, her eighth graders develop materials to teach fourth graders from local elementary schools. Every spring, several hundred fourth graders arrive at Wachter on school buses and spend the day visiting learning stations that detail the challenges along the trails: crossing rivers, foraging for berries and avoiding angry bears. Quale also invites families and community members into the classroom to listen as students present their work. North Dakota students must pass a state civics exam, so Quale sets up interactive discussions and helps students create “foldables,” portable study guides to help them prepare. Her methods work—in 2019, 99.9 percent of Wachter’s eighth graders passed the test, beating the state by nearly 15 points.
Quale builds strong relationships with both students and colleagues. She is active in the school and district professional learning communities, helped introduce and implement new standards for social studies, mentors student teachers and new hires, and works with colleagues to create lessons and differentiate instruction. During the pandemic, Quale used her Professional Learning Community time to support colleagues as they transitioned to Google Classroom and Google Meets, relieving teachers’ anxiety about remote teaching as they created new ways for students to participate and learn.
Quale has a unique ability to connect with students, listen with empathy, and inspire them to learn. Students rarely sit still and take notes in her classroom—they are always busy and engaged, and most important, leave her classroom loving history. Quale sees past academics to address the needs of the whole child. She started Wachter’s Pink Dot program to supply personal hygiene items to students. Every year, Quale organizes an eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C. She helps students raise funds to cover travel costs, involving the whole community to make sure the trip is successful and every student has the opportunity to participate.
Quale earned a bachelor’s in elementary and secondary education in 2007 from Jamestown College and a master’s in teaching with technology in 2013 from Valley City State University.
Press release: Surprise of a Lifetime: Bismarck Teacher Receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award
"I'm here [at my Milken Award notification] because of my teachers. I have family members who are teachers. I learn from other..." (read more)