Haynes Teachers Learn in Ranch Adventures

Learning writing techniquesHaynes Elementary School educators described a writing academy as a magical experience of ranch adventures during a two-day professional develoment in east Texas.


Through a Killeen ISD Education Foundation grant, 10 professional staff members attended the Teach Big Writing Academy at the Buffalo Nickel Ranch in Crockett.


The Haynes team hoped to bring back new learning to enhance literary instruction.

 Haynes staff enjoy wagon ride

What we discovered was more than anyone could have imagined.


Randi Whitney, developer of Teach Big – Writing Academy, welcomed teachers to a cozy cabin. The group enjoyed delicious meals in a beautiful environment, but it was the learning that impressed Haynes teachers. 


Randi unveiled a wealth of expertise on the TEKS, STAAR 2.0, and shared steps to ensure student success on Short Constructed Responses.


Team members earned wooden “Buffalo Nickels” tossed to outstretched hands for answering questions, volunteering to demonstrate strategies, cheering one another on, and sharing their “a-ha” moments. 


The Haynes staff learned to convert preparation for Short Constructed Responses from dreaded assignments to fun, engaging, and meaningful thinking experiences that will impact student achievement well beyond this year’s STAAR.


Carolee May, special education teacher, said, “Teach Big is an authentic, eye-opening deep dive into the TEKS, which provides innovative and differentiated techniques for instruction that will inspire students while impacting their success.”


In addition to learning teaching skills, staff members explored the countryside.

 Haynes professional development

The days of learning were interspersed with adventures, including a covered wagon ride to see the longhorn cattle, donkeys, chickens, goats, and a potbelly pig named Sammy. 


Every adventure provided more examples of how to make learning memorable for students. The team was asked to gather textual evidence by searching for and taking pictures of evidence along the trail.  


Special Education teacher Kristin Swan found “… a great balance of learning and adventure!  Everything Randi taught was purposeful and intentional!  You left the ranch feeling like you were part of the “Teach Big” family!” 


The team was treated to a touching story of a young boy named Joe that lived on the ranch long ago that served to reinforce the immense importance and impact that a teacher can have on a child. 


Erica Ruiz, ESL teacher, raved, “Visiting the ranch was one of the biggest highlights of my professional career, not just for my mind, but for my heart as well. Randi has cracked the code for teachers to help students become successful writers.” 


“Her authentic learning environment made it so easy to soak up all she shared. Every educator should visit the ranch!”


The team at Haynes is so thankful for the opportunity to spend two days learning together at the ranch retreat. Without the Education Foundation and its donors this experience would not have happened. 


Third grade teacher Cathy Keene shared that “Randi’s one-of-a-kind training environment provided me with numerous “Teach Big” tools to incorporate in my class and add to my teacher toolbox.” 


Training sessions have already been scheduled on campus to share this learning with those on campus who were unable to attend.