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Doug Emery: Helping Kids Make Connections in a Complex World

Third-grade Valley Vista teacher says science can help students see the big picture and improve their reading and writing in the process.

As part of our “Back to School” coverage, all this week Petaluma Patch is profiling local teachers who have made an impact on students. Teachers featured in this section were nominated by our readers and are just a sampling of some of the wonderful and committed teachers working at Petaluma schools.

It’s a week before the start of classes at Valley Vista Elementary and third grade teacher Doug Emery is busy.

While kids are still sleeping in and spending their days in the pool, Emery is filling the tanks in his classroom with crayfish and organizing all the “artifacts” he’s collected on summer outings.

At 60, Emery is a veteran educator who has spent 27 years teaching in Petaluma schools— five at Valley Vista and 22 at McKinley Elementary.

“I am excited to share the kinds of things that connect people with patterning in nature and science in every day life,” says Emery. “Wherever we can link scientific concepts like light and connect them to things like electro magnets, insects and other things to get the big picture, it connects kids to the world as a very magical place. And that keeps them interested in learning.”

Cassandra Nickel is a parent at Valley Vista and nominated Emery for special recognition by Patch.

He believes in his kids (and) he engages them the minute they walk into his classroom,” Nickel says. “His passion is teaching and finds new and innovative ways to motivate his kids. He spends a lot his personal time at school creating lessons, talking to parents (because the parents love him too), and building/improving the tables he built for iPads.”

“This past year a bunch of parents bought Mr. Emery an iPad for his personal use. The minute he received his gift from us, he was already using it for his students. He is selfless when it comes to his kids.”

Emery is a big proponent of fieldtrips and takes at least two every month, some local, like to Shollenberger Park and the Petaluma Historical Museum and some further including to Point Reyes to observe birds or the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

As for success in the classroom, Emery credits “great colleagues” and a principal Emily Blecher who gives him the flexibility to find lessons that are appealing to his students, a third of who are English Language Learners.

In the 2012-13 school year, Emery is looking forward to the implementation of the Common Core Standards that students need to meet at each grade level and in each subject area to make sure they are prepared for college or the workforce when they graduate.

“It will result in integration of curriculum of science, engineering and math with language arts, all of which is terrific for language learners,” he says. “We’re always looking for ways to not only get kids excited about learning, but also establish that academic vocabulary they need to succeed.”

christine August 14, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Mr Emery is the most amazing teacher! Haveing the opportunity to have him teach our son has made our son a more successful student. Our son is now entering 5th garde ready to succeeded thanks in part to Doug Emery!! The Sims Family
Laura Bradley August 14, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Hooray for hands-on, field-trip science in elementary school! Have a great year, Mr. Emery.
Lorie James August 16, 2012 at 05:20 AM
An inspiration to all!
Ptown Proud August 16, 2012 at 01:32 PM
This man is an inspiration to kids and parents alike. Every year he creates an environment that is welcoming to EVERY child in school including those not in his class. Kids wish every year that they get him as a teacher and those that do end the year with a belly of knowledge that surpasses some of the parents and I can speak to this first hand. Thank goodness for google. Doug's lessons continue on years after his students have left his class. I'm never surprised when the response to "where did you learn that?" comes back as "OH, I learned it from Mr Emery!". What's even more inspiring is the thoughtfulness for the world around them children walk out with after time spent with Doug. Oh and did I say my child wasn't even in his class, just lucky enough to be in the same school his teaches at. Keep up the great work Doug, you really are the teacher kids will be remembering with fondness and joy when they're adults!

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