Tyler Finch started college planning to be a doctor but, in his senior year, decided to pursue a career in education—and students at New Mexico’s Loving High School (LHS) are grateful he did. Finch chairs the district science department in Loving, a tiny farming community in the state’s southeastern corner where poverty is pervasive. Finch has a unique ability to reach and motivate students, regardless of their background, and constantly adjusts his practices to meet their diverse needs. Walk into his classroom and every student is engaged, whether it’s ninth grade physical science or AP Chemistry, one of the district’s first Advanced Placement classes. Instead of banning cell phones, Finch finds ways to use them for learning and engagement. To interest younger students in STEM subjects, AP Chemistry students host Science Nights for Loving’s elementary schoolers. Finch’s students like science, and it shows. More than 80% of his physical science students pass New Mexico EoC (End of Course) assessments; for chemical science, it’s 100%. Former students often report Finch’s classes were 10 times harder than their college science classes and thank him for preparing them so well.
Finch consistently examines student data to inform his instructional practices and helps colleagues become data devotees too. He developed an analytical tool that helps the district ensure that assessments are fair and meaningful. Finch sits on the school leadership team, has led districtwide professional development on student engagement and data analysis, and recruits and mentors new teachers. He believes educators need to “stay ready so you don’t have to get ready,” a philosophy that came in handy during the pandemic. Finch’s years of expertise with educational technology, especially the Canvas learning management system, smoothed LHS’ transition to online instruction when schools closed in March 2020. Finch provided daily video instruction via Canvas, learned Spanish so his monolingual students could participate in online discussions, and helped colleagues maximize their virtual instruction.
Finch is well known in Loving, in part because he coaches football and track. Taking advice and inspiration from coaches at Stanford and Vanderbilt Universities, Finch created Falcon Strong, a workout program for students that spans both field and classroom. Football players memorize his “Falcon Strong” creed at the start of the season: “I represent my family, school and community with honesty, integrity and courage.” School leadership have since adapted the creed for the entire school.
Finch earned a bachelor’s in science in 2013 and a master’s in curriculum and instruction in 2018 from Eastern New Mexico University.
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