Ryan Kaiser, a Baltimore City social studies teacher at Mount Washington Middle School, was selected as Maryland Teacher of the Year for 2015.
Kaiser recalls happy memories of his fourth grade learning experience when he and his parents went on vacation to the Rocky Mountains. That was when he acquired an affinity for environmental exploration. Through a hands-on approach, he enhanced his learning exponentially. The 10-year old Kaiser realized that not everyone has the same learning experiences.
Kaiser comes from a family of educators. Both of his parents worked in the education field. His paternal and maternal grandfathers were both great storytellers, which inspired Kaiser’s love for history. His grandfather met his grandmother at Yellowstone Lodge. His grandparents told him how as a young couple they carved “Buff loves Martha” into a large redwood tree. He says fifty years later the names are still etched in the bark of the tree.
Kaiser is only the second Baltimore City teacher to earn the prestigious title of “Teacher of the Year.” He attributes his scholarly achievement to several components. He says working with other scholars on writing a national curriculum has helped him to hone his skills. Working with his colleagues throughout Baltimore City and building partnerships with other organizations has increased the teaching resources and opportunities.
Inevitably the students benefit from the educational opportunities.
“Without the whole spectrum this wouldn’t happen,” said Kaiser. “We need help from every teacher, administrator and all of the parents. If any one of those pieces were not involved, it would fall apart.”
Kaiser takes his social studies students on scores of field trips during the school year. Some of the trips are low cost, in walking distance or sponsored by one of the many partnerships he has developed over the years.
“It’s helping the learning come alive in the classroom,” Kaiser said.
Kaiser relocated to Maryland nearly 10 years ago. He says he is still learning about the rich history in Baltimore.
“There’s so much to do in Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and the east coast,” said Kaiser. “I’m simultaneously teaching and learning with the students on these field trips.”
He explains that he has to learn more so that he can teach the next group of students.
The social studies teacher continues his personal development by reading about what he loves most— environmental exploration and the great national parks. He is currently reading a book by John Muir who went on environmental vacations in the 1800s. He describes nature’s beauty and his adventures while hiking through the Redwood Forest in California. Subsequently, a national park was named after Muir.
Kaiser encourages parents and guardians to visit local parks that could be explored on the weekends and where hands-on learning can be applied.
“Look for schools that engage in that type of learning,” said Kaiser.
During the summer, Kaiser operates the Baltimore Environmental Explorers Summer Camp. The program was created in 2007. He initiated the outdoor exploration camp because of the lack of summer programming to prepare the students for the upcoming school year. The camp receives approximately $70K in donations from a myriad of organizations and partnerships to sustain it. The camp accommodates 40 students for the summer. He encourages the campers to write letters about their adventures and experiences to mail to their supporters.
For more information about Kaiser’s Baltimore Environmental Explores Summer Camp, visit: www.beespppcs.weebly.com.
All year round, Kaiser implements creative ideas and resources to help educate area youth— “It’s been a blast! I love it!” he said.