2021 T.O.Y. Finalist - Jori Koss

Meet Jori Koss

Seventh & Eighth grade, Muskegon Montessori Academy for Environmental Change

With the school since the beginning. Jori Koss has always been up for a challenge. She started with MMAEC as a special education teacher and grew with the school moving into middle school and becoming a core teacher. Jori goes above and beyond for the students which really showed during the pandemic. Students could get any help they needed, but Jori focused a lot on their social-emotional growth as well offered a "social hour" for students to come and see friends, chat about what's happening in their lives, and play games. She also offered opportunities for gamified learning in the classroom - using reasoning and decision making while playing the popular game Among Us. Her students are always happy to get on Zoom or walk into Ms. Jori's classroom. 

A headshot of 2021 TOY Finalist, Jori Koss.
A headshot of 2021 TOY Finalist, Jori Koss.
A headshot of 2021 TOY Finalist, Jori Koss.

What have to done to make a lasting impression on students?

I believe that making learning valuable while connecting to the curriculum is a challenge in most middle school classrooms. A way that I achieved this connection over the past year is through the use of Project-Based Learning. In the winter of last year, my class began a project centered around the sustainability of gardening. Through the use of community partners, research, and student input, we began researching the difference between hydroponic gardening and traditional gardening. The goal was to create a community garden at our school that will be sustainable for many years to come. Although incomplete due to the start of virtual learning, this project inspired my students! This past summer, I received multiple messages from parents AND students showing off the garden they made at their own home. I have enjoyed stories about how students worked in their own community gardens and now look forward to completing the project this spring. The long-term impact and the excitement the students bring to the project have inspired me to find more engaging learning activities that will leave its mark and continue to impact both the students and the school long after they have moved on.

How do you motivate parents to participate in the educational process?

Motivated parents who take an active role in their child's schooling can make all the difference in a student's education. In today’s classroom, we are lucky enough to have technology that will assist parent and teacher communication and keeps the parent informed on the overall progress of their child using the very same data I mentioned earlier. However, what I have found to be the most effective is not an app or piece of software but actual in person communication with their child on the different learning objectives and outcomes they should expect. For example, during our bi-annual parent/teacher conferences I have the student join us and actually host the conference themselves. It is the students' job to explain what the NWEA score means, what the Albanesi (Montessori Testing) scores mean, as well as the student's explanation as to why they may have any missing assignments or unfinished work. This gives the student the ability to take responsibility for their own growth and learning process while also giving their parents the motivation to stay engaged and continue to openly discuss academic success throughout the school year.

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