About the Teacher
ABOUT ME ...
My name is Mr. Foley. I'm excited to be continuing my career in education here at Issaquah High School. This will be my 17th year teaching and my ninth here in Washington.
Before moving to Washington, I grew up and went to school and college in California. I earned my teaching credential (and degree in biological science) from California State University, Hayward. Then, I began my teaching career at the high school from which I graduated. I also received G.A.T.E. certification from my previous district and AP biology certification from UC Riverside. After teaching AP biology there for 8 years, I decided that a life change was in order, so I moved here in June of 2011. Here in my seventh year at I.H.S., I'm not only looking forward to continuing to teach biology, but I'm also excited for AP biology and AP environmental science. Each year, students in both AP classes have performed exceptionally well, so I'm looking to continue that trend.
Living in Washington is wonderful and being here makes it so easy to enjoy nature. I like being
outside as often as possible, even when it's gray! I'm also fond of camping and traveling. I've been
to a number of national parks, including: Glacier, Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Grand Canyon,
and Mt. Rainier, Hawaii Volcanoes, Haleakala, Grand Teton, Arches, Canyonlands, Crater Lake, Lassen
Volcanic, and Redwoods. One of my favorite methods of vacation/travel is by cruise ship! So far, I've
had the opportunity to travel on 20 cruises to places such as the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico (both
coasts), and the Mediterranean. I've been lucky enough to see a few other countries including:
Canada, Mexico, England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Finland, Sweden, Estonia,
Denmark, The Netherlands, Russia, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, and a number of others
in The Caribbean.
Some of my favorite indoor pastimes include cooking, movies, camping (especially the National
Parks), and spending time with friends. Oh ... and I'm also a massive fan of Game of Thrones (the show and the books)!
MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY ...
My philosophy on education has evolved over my years of teaching. I've come to a realization about how our education system has driven the students within it. For most students, in many schools, students are taught how to be good students. They learn that by completing the tasks laid out before them, they'll earn points. It's those points that have become the primary motivation for virtually all students and parents. The strategy has become: produce lots of work and try really hard, for that's all that matters. However, if you ask an educator, they're likely to tell you that learning -- information, skills, problem solving, critical thinking, etc. -- is the primary function of education.
I analogize education in two parts: a cart and a horse. The horse represents the hard work resulting in the retention of information, learning of skills, and development of problem solving and critical thinking abilities. The cart simply represents the grade the student earns. If the student works to grow and maintain a healthy "horse," it can pull a bigger, heavier, more substantial cart. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, for many, points/grades are the motivation in school, causing students and parents to unwisely put the cart before the horse.
To help students focus their efforts on what really matters, their education (the "horse"), I work to prioritize teaching in a way that makes relevant connections to students' actual lives. I believe that when curriculum is taught in a way that students can see the value in it and how it applies to their lives, they learn it more deeply and will retain more of it.
Also, I tend to employ teaching methods that will engage students and keep them engaged. Hands-on activities are one of the most powerful ways to draw students in. But, even when I must provide direct instruction, I work to do it in a way that piques student interest.
In my classroom, I build my students' experience in an organized way and place a lot of value on helping students to develop their own organizational strategies. I am a very organized person and have established a set of classroom policies that are fair and logical and have the singular purpose of preparing students for the challenges of college and/or the "real world." I also want to make sure that all students have equally rigorous access to the curriculum and that I can provide whatever assistance I can so that all students learn.
Finally, the importance of the communication between parents, students, and the teacher cannot be overstated in my opinion. Anytime I receive an email inquiry from a parent about their child's performance in class, I always speak to the student before I reply to the parent. I've discovered that students are quite honest about how they're doing and fully self-aware about their strengths and areas for growth. Often I can simply share with parents what their student already knows without having to add any of my own editorializing. I appreciate open and frequent channels between all so that we can work together to make the students' education valuable and life-long.
Here is a list of the research-based, education books I've read that support the above types of grading practices to better support student learning. From a diverse source of experts, with large amounts of evidence they conclude: the move by educators to a system like that above supports students with deeper, long-lasting understanding and stronger development of critical thinking and problem solving skills. If you're interested in more information, you can find many of them at the library (within the King Country Library System), in bookstores, and online.