Engaging students through storytelling
Scott Buchanan is an exceptional teacher who can incorporate his world travels and experiences into his classroom.
Buchanan teaches seventh grade social studies at Crook County Middle School, and although teaching is his passion, it is also his second career.
The United States Air Force veteran graduated from Bend High in Bend in 1983 and attended Oregon State University, where he received his degree in history. He also went through Air Force ROTC, which paid for his college. He went to flight school, graduating third in his class.
"I was curious about being a teacher then, but the Air Force wouldn't let me student teach," he said. "If you can't student teach, you can't get an education degree, so I had to figure out what degree I wanted, and with all the classes I had taken so far, the easiest transfer was history. That is how I ended up with history."
Buchanan wanted to see the world, and unlike many in his class who chose flying jets or bombers, he chose C141 cargo planes. Based out of New Jersey, he flew all over the world, including Europe. He would always choose to do tours when he had time off while flying around the world.
"I was living two hours south of New York City, so I would go up to New York, or we would fly to Europe."
He had the opportunity to be an instructor for flight training, teaching out of San Antonio, Texas, for four years. He was instructor of the year five times while in this assignment.
"That confirmed my original suspicion that I would probably love teaching. I absolutely loved it, and so I knew that someday teaching would be in my future," Buchanan remarked of his time teaching flight school.
The last five years in the Air Force, he was promoted to major as a general's aid for different generals. For one four-month assignment, he was selected to work on a joint task force headed up by former President Bill Clinton called Operation Shining Hope—a humanitarian mission.
"I got to brief the President a few times and meet him," he noted of his time in the mission.
Buchanan had a great career in the Air Force, but after 20 years, he decided to come home to Central Oregon. He was tired of living out of a suitcase.
"I just wanted to come home. I came to Oregon and picked up my teaching degree," He indicated.
Buchanan added a bachelor's and master's degree in education that allowed him to teach elementary through high school. He had a strong desire to have an avenue in which to share his travel experiences with students.
"Teaching would give me a venue to share my stories," he emphasized.
Eight years ago, he came to Crook County Middle School as a long-term substitute.
When he had the opportunity to secure a permanent job at the school, he jumped on it. He was impressed with the teamwork and support of the staff.
He taught eighth grade language arts for five years, then he had the opportunity to teach seventh grade social studies last year.
"Now, I am finally teaching something I have a passion for," he said of teaching social studies. "With social studies, it's getting students to think outside the box a little bit. I love middle school because the brain development is a place where students start to realize they can think for themselves and come up with their own opinions."
He engages his students to think critically, which he believes that is a skill that is important throughout life. He encourages the students to evaluate our current society by comparing ancient societies like Greece and Rome, and what they can learn from them.
"Mr. Buchanan incorporates his world travels and Air Force pilot career into a fun and intriguing learning experience," remarked CCMS Principal Kurt Sloper of Buchanan's teaching style. "Students find themselves entertained and learning at the same time through his rich story telling. Most of all, students know that he wants them to succeed in his class and life."
Buchanan tells his students about places he has visited, and his stories help bring the material to life and make it relevant.
He pointed out that their students at CCHS get compliments from other substitutes.
"They have a reputation for just being good kids."
Buchanan also noted that he gets a lot of compliments from his students and positive feedback that they learn a great deal from his class.
"I feel like something I am doing is working. You can't put students in a box because every student is different," he went on to say.
"Scott is a teacher who really engages with his classes," said fellow instructor and colleague Matt Fischer. "He pours a lot into his time with his students, and they really enjoy that time. Scott is a very dedicated teacher, and he makes a big impact on a lot of kids' lives."
Buchanan feels like his teaching position is a perfect match, and as he points to photos of his world travels and experiences, he explains how these make his teaching come alive.
"If I have a gift, I think that's what it is—I make what we learn relevant to the world they live in," he concluded.
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