Ruden keeps her students challenged and engaged in her classroom and says it's important to create a safe learning environment for all.
Asha Ruden has spent her entire career at Mount Everett as science teacher in the middle school and more recently in the high school. She's working toward a doctorate in education leadership.
SHEFFIELD, Mass. — Mount Everett Regional School science teacher Asha Von Ruden has been selected as the November Teacher of the Month.
The Teacher of the Month series runs for the next six months in partnership with Berkshire Community College.
For a span of 26 years, Ruden has been a guiding force at Mount Everett, dedicating her entire career to the institution.
Throughout her tenure, she has attempted to encourage students to be lifelong learners.
"I hope that they stay curious about the world, that they see themselves as a part of the world, and that they learn something from every place and every person that they meet," Ruden said.
Ruden not only teaches this sentiment but is also practicing what she preaches, being a lifelong learner herself.
She is currently working toward her doctorate degree at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell in leadership in education with a focus in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.
Ruden hopes to have it completed by May. In the future she would like to have a leadership position in a STEM program.
She has been an integral part of initiating and maintaining school traditions such as Greek Week and ballooning, Middle School English teacher Kim Simpson-Gomes said.
Most of Ruden's career has been in middle school but this year she is teaching high school and college-level science courses.
"Asha came on a short time after I did and we worked together for 21 years in middle school. She's great," Principal Jesse Carpenter said.
"Working with the middle school students at the time, [she] really did a tremendous job with all aspects of teaching, social emotional learning, teaching science. Getting kids really engaged and interested in science, I think, was one of her strong points."
Ruden taught the students that she currently has in seventh grade and said it is "mind blowing" seeing them grow and develop.
Every student is different and comes into the classroom with their own knowledge and experiences, she said.
"I have learned that I am probably going to learn more from the kids than they are going to learn from me," Ruden said.
Her students expressed being grateful for having the opportunity to have her twice.
"I've had her twice now and in each class, I kind of felt like she really actually helps me learn. If I have a problem in some other classes, I feel like it's not tended to as nicely, but in here I understand things and if I don't, then she'll take time out and stop the lesson and go over something," said one student.
"She has helped me in countless ways, like I've gotten into science, and I'm actually planning on going into physical education and this class specifically is helping me solidify that with all the anatomy she's teaching us. She's been like a teacher I've always wanted to have more times, but I've never been able to but now I'm grateful that I have had the chance to have her twice."
It is important to create a safe environment where the kids feel comfortable enough to ask questions, Ruden said.
As soon as you walk into the classroom you cannot help but notice some of Ruden's animals, which include two chinchillas and a couple tanks of fish.
Although students are not allowed to take the chinchillas out of the cage, they are allowed to reach in and pet them. Having pets to interact with is helpful to some students, Ruden said.
Having pets in the classroom teaches students to be respectful and helps them understand that the animals are living creatures, she continued, and some students develop a level of interest in helping to care for the animals.
Having the animals builds community and helps the students see outside of themselves, Ruden said.
"Kids need to feel safe to share what they're thinking and ask questions. If they don't they're not going to develop their ideas, and they're not going to grow as a community and as an individual," she said.
Teaching middle school students poses different challenges than high school students, Ruden said. Middle school students have "quite an energy" so when teaching them you have to try and manage that energy and channel it into things that are positive in the classroom.
In high school that is not so much the case, she said. The challenge is to make sure that the curriculum, information, and tasks are challenging to them.
She believes it is important to help students grow in their own way. Every student is different and it is satisfying to see each student arriving at the same answer a different way, she said.
"I love when the kids figure something out. I like to pose problems to them and have them figure them out and when they do that's very satisfying," Ruden said.
"...When they realize something about themselves that they didn't know beforehand or they realize they can do something they didn't think they could do or, you know the 'aha' moment, and the light bulb goes off, that's the most satisfying part of teaching."
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