Mr. Bob Boots’ Golden Apple may not be edible, but it is a testament to the lasting impact he has on his students.
Boots, the seventh and eighth grade science teacher at Pella Middle School, was awarded the Golden Apple by WHO-TV Channel 13. He was nominated by three of his students for his spontaneity, encouragement and enthusiasm for learning in the classroom.
“One of the biggest things that separates him from other teachers is his combination of fun and seriousness. Some teachers are super nice, and some are really strict, Mr. Boots is a perfect balance, and we learn a lot in his class. Occasionally he shares his passion for Barbara Streisand and Alabama Softball, he is very passionate about these things which makes him a spontaneous teacher but also encouraging kids to learn,” wrote eighth-grader Tess Hopkins in the letter.
Boots received his biology degree from the University of Northern Iowa and has been teaching in the Pella School District for 31 years. He says his high school science teacher sparked his love for both science and teaching.
“He was very animated, very in love with the subject matter,” says Boots. “He then taught what you use the information for in everyday life, and I love the everyday piece. I don’t want my kids to say ‘when am I ever going to use this?’ because we’ve all gone through that type of education. I want to make sure they have practical application and future use of the information.”
A typical day in Boots’ classroom begins with a current event, like the wildfires in Australia, to create discussion and encourage students to ask themselves the why and the how. Boots typically follows with an activity that engages students, whether it’s in the lab or outdoors when the weather is agreeable. Of course, there’s a little bit of note-taking, Boots says, but he likes to keep his students motivated.
“Student engagement is my favorite part of teaching,” says Boots. “I want to learn from my students too because sometimes they know things that I don’t. I think that’s also why I like science so well because it changes all the time. There’s always new discoveries, new issues. Some of the issues from almost 40 years ago are completely different than what the issues are of today.”
Boots says technology can occasionally make things challenging. He says he would prefer his students to have an open discussion about information presented in the classroom rather than relying on a computer to provide the answers.
“Technology is good, but there’s nothing like hands-on learning,” says Boots. “It’s a tough call sometimes … but I don’t want to lose that student interaction.”
The Golden Apple is awarded to teachers each month during the school year by WHO-TV. Students are encouraged to write a nomination letter for their teacher to receive the special recognition, and Boots says the Golden Apple makes him feel like he’s really making a difference.
“Everybody comes from different types of backgrounds, and I want to work with them,” says Boots. “I want students, for at least one period out of the day, to look forward to coming to class. I want them to think that science isn’t a scary thing, and science isn’t just for a particular group of people.”