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Heather Renz


"Mastery Club is so easy to run, and it means a lot for the students," Heather Renz told Education World. "I am so thankful that when I was in fifth grade, my teacher ran a Mastery Club for us. I found the faded certificate she made for me years ago and used the idea to create a Mastery Club for my students. It is very different than my teachers club, but the idea is the same -- to motivate students to go above and beyond. And this club does that."

Mastery Club challenges are on display in Renz's fourth grade classroom.

Fourth graders in Renz's classroom at Tom McCall Elementary in Redmond, Oregon, are encouraged to work at home during their free time on "challenges" that are part of the Mastery Club. Students may choose from 84 challenges organized by subjects that include social studies, science, language arts, math, and miscellaneous material.

"This is a club that challenges students to go beyond normal classroom expectations," explained Renz. "Students explore those subjects in any order they wish. When theyre ready to answer the questions posed in their selected challenges, they come to me during recess or while were eating lunch and give the answers orally. Some questions require a written response, but most are verbal and must be done from memory. We use no class time to run this club."

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Renz is always excited to see Mastery Club students set goals for themselves and achieve them. Years ago, she established a club "Hall of Fame" that students may join when they have completed sixteen challenges. Every year at least one child sets out to capture the top spot in the hall, and last year a girl in the class exceeded the previous record by three points!

"All students can earn at least one challenge, and most do, during the year," said Renz. "I love seeing students come to school full of enthusiasm for another challenge learned. I also think it's a way for families to help their children and share in their success."

Students who complete at least sixteen challenges become members of the club "Hall of Fame."

Because Renz has published her Mastery Club challenges online, she often hears from other educators who are using her program with their students. One teacher in another state told Renz of a child who had mastered all the challenges. The student received recognition in the school paper. It is the enthusiasm for learning that Mastery Club generates, that drives Renz's program.

"I am happy to share educational successes with my teaching colleagues," Renz added. "In the end, we all want the same result -- for our students to achieve and strive to be lifelong learners. Every teacher has his or her own style, so I think it's great that teachers customize the club to fit their needs. Sharing ideas is what it's all about."

Article by Cara Bafile
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