When Rebecca (Becky) Streff set out to create a persuasive writing unit for her fifth-graders at North Bend Central Elementary in North Bend, Nebraska, she picked a topic sure to pique students’ interest: chocolate milk. As part of the district’s new K-5 writing program, Streff asked students to craft arguments for or against offering chocolate milk in schools. Nutritionists visited her classroom to talk about added sugar in common beverages, and the children performed additional research on their own. Students presented their arguments to multiple panels, including parents, community members and media. Because Streff planned the unit collaboratively with the school’s fourth- and sixth-grade teachers to ensure vertical alignment of standards and skills with the new curriculum, the writing unit crossed over effectively to enhance the students’ reading, science, math and speaking skills. Streff’s students consistently exceed average math, reading and science scores on state assessments, and a majority exceed grade-level standards in all areas.
North Bend Elementary is a Blue Ribbon School, due in part to Streff’s commitment to continuous improvement and innovative instruction. She pores over data from her pre-assessments, developed for each unit to identify students who need either an extra challenge or extra help. Streff slips daily assessments unobtrusively into her lessons and provides students meaningful feedback. She communicates learning goals clearly, both verbally and in writing, and helps students understand the context for what they are learning. Streff develops grant proposals each year for field trips and enrichment activities, including visits to a science center and planetarium, viewing the 2017 solar eclipse in Haymarket Park, and marching across the stage in a new fifth-grade graduation ceremony.
Streff is a lifelong learner who constantly seeks out opportunities to collaborate with colleagues in her building, district and state. She mentors first-year teachers, works with Nebraska’s ESU2 (Educational Service Unit) to develop professional development for North Bend Elementary teachers, and has attended STEM workshops and conferences to upgrade the school’s science curriculum. Streff coaches the Future Problem Solvers team, a small group of high-achieving students, as well as junior high track and volleyball. She is co-leader of the school’s PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) team and the school improvement committee. Streff uses Google Classroom to prepare students for the systems they will encounter in the high school building and updates parents via the Remind and Bloomz apps.
Streff earned a bachelor’s in elementary education in 2004 and a master’s of teaching, learning and teacher education 2008 from the University of Nebraska, plus a master’s in educational leadership in 2013 from Doane University.
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