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Teacher Feature: Meet the 8th Grade Team!

Updated: Jan 8, 2023

L to R: Amanda Acosta, Spanish teacher, Kelli Little, ELA, Tiffany Smith, science, Nikki Wilkins, math, and Piotr Buniewicz, history.

"We work so well together. No one's ever a stick in the mud, it's always like, 'if it's best for the students, we'll do it,' even if it means being silly or wearing the same shirt." -Mr. Piotr Buniewicz, eighth grade history teacher

In the eighth grade wing, every Friday begins with a dance party.

"Tiff [science teacher Tiffany Smith] started playing music in the hallways with a karaoke mic and the kids all gather, and they're silly, and they'll sing, or dance," said eighth grade history teacher Piotr Buniewicz.

"We're trying to show them it's okay to be yourself and to be weird and to be excited about things. Sometimes they're so focused on what everyone else is doing and then they're afraid to break out of that shell."

Ms. Smith, Principal Miller, and Mrs. Little aren't afraid to be goofy sometimes!

The hallway dance parties are a welcome excuse to let loose and relax. The eighth grade team says this year serves as a time of rapid emotional, social, physical, and intellectual growth, which can be overwhelming for students to navigate.

"These kids are right on that cusp of trying to figure out who they are," said Ms. Smith. "You can tell they want some leadership and some ownership. By the

time you send them to ninth grade, they're more mature and they're ready to go, you can really see them grow right here."

Kingsley's eighth grade team says their focus as a whole is two-fold: equip them with the knowledge they need to conquer high school and PSATs, and give them the social tools they need to navigate life.

"For example, if they're at a store and want to buy something on sale, I want them to be able to calculate math mentally to see how much they're saving," said math teacher Nikki Wilkins. "But more than that, I always tell them I just want them to come away feeling successful no matter what it is, even if it's a big formula they need to do, whatever it is, you know, they can do it."

The team is hopeful about this class of eighth graders in particular. ELA teacher Mrs. Kellie Little says this year's group thinks differently.

"This is by far probably one of the strongest groups I've ever had in terms of critical thinking and wanting to be successful and wanting to learn," she said.

Read on to learn more about each eighth grade teacher!

Piotr Buniewicz - History

"This is my first year teaching eighth grade. I'm so happy to get into eighth grade because the kids are capable of doing great things. They have established personalities and interests.

As a history teacher, I'm able to try to corral that into what they're interested in in history, whether that be war or social events or issues or things like that. It's fun. There is a lot of energy every day. One thing that I feel like we have all done is tried to meet kids where they are emotionally."

Learning Goals

"For me, as a lifelong goal for eighth grade history, it would be just thinking critically about all the information that they get overloaded with. I would love for them to be able to ask questions and think critically about sources that are in front of them. In their real life, if they watch a YouTube video I want them to be able to ask good questions like, what is the source gaining from saying this? I don't want them to take things at face value.

In history, our curriculum goes from the Declaration of Independence through the American Civil War. Sometimes that can feel like ancient history to the students so whenever I can I try to relate it to things that happened more recently.

The kids are very in-tune and all of them have different kinds of social issues that they care about. Whenever we're able to tie in those issues to what we're talking about in the past, they really like start opening up and they get really interested."

Tiffany Smith - Science

"We try to build them up, like, 'whoever you are, you can do great things.' That might not look like college, it might look like trades, it might look like this or that. With our field trips that we do, we're trying to let them get experience in a little bit of everything.

We all teach something different, but our focus is very similar. We might not get every single kid but the majority we're trying to get to think outside the box.

We adults have tools in our toolbox. I might have a hammer and I might have a screwdriver. If they're coming at life with a tape measure, well, you really can't pound a nail with a tape measure, you know? So it's us

trying to get the kids to realize that we're here to help them."

Learning Goals

"My biggest shift that I've made throughout the years is, 'how do I provide them with a lab that gets them to want to think outside of the box but allows them to make their own conclusions about it?'

The reality is, I would love the kids to come away with their own answers. It can be hard as a teacher because you realize that you have to let them fail a little bit in order to succeed in the end."

Nikki Wilkins - Math

"We're trying to bring them to where they're prepared when it really counts, in high school. In math, particularly, we're building, building, building to their SATs their junior year. Our job is to not only teach the skills they need but to make sure they have the confidence and feel like they can be successful.

I always talk to them about just finding opportunities. Because in the future, no matter what career path they're picking, you just need to do your very best so you can have opportunities. There are so many things kids are carrying coming into school every day and so trying to just let them know we care and have that relationship is huge."

Learning Goals:

"I think a lot of our focus is making sure they are ready to be successful at the high school.

I think another huge theme is collaboration. That's what real life is with all the careers out there. You're most often working with a team to solve a problem."

Kellie Little - English Language Arts

"This can be a hard age to teach, but I don't think I'd pick any other grade if given the choice. This is why I love eighth graders: they still care. They're still moldable and as long as they know you care, they'll show up and do anything.

They're trying to find their own world. They're pushing their limits. They're questioning the world they live in. That allows us to have rich, deep conversations because they're innately curious about everything. It's cool to see what they're interested in and driven by."

Learning Goals:

"My goal is for them to be able to read closely and cite evidence to support their claims and to be able to process a lot of what people say by thinking critically and being able to analyze complex text."


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