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In celebration of our five year anniversary, our Head of School Mr. Walker took a few moments to share some thoughts about our incredible Mr. Ryan. As a Physical Geography and Chemistry instructor since day one, Mr. Ryan has seen five years worth of students in grades 5 and 6 transition to upper school, and has cheered them on the entire time.

Over the years, a number of parents, faculty, staff and generally any fully grown adult who has some connection with our school, have shared a common thought with me. If you spend any time in our school, and interact with BASIS Independent Silicon Valley teachers, you often end up wishing that you could actually take the classes that we offer. This desire is driven partly by the diversity of our curriculum and the course offerings that we have, but, I believe mostly, by the passionate subject expert teachers in every classroom. Mr. Ryan is a crystal clear example of this. As a founding faculty member Mr. Ryan has provided a rock-solid foundation for our Chemistry department and has helped countless students get a firm grounding in the sciences. We put him under the microscope… no pressure Mr. Ryan.

We sat down with Mr. Ryan to ask him what these past years have been like, and how he has seen our youngest Bobcats fare in his time here.

You have always taught students in the lower grades; in your experience what's the benefit of enrolling earlier in our program such as in grade 5?

I believe the earlier a student is placed onto the path of success, the better their chances are of achieving that success when they graduate. I have had a wonderful opportunity to see this school grow throughout the years, and one of the things I have noticed is that each year the high school cohorts rise in strength. I attribute that to, not only the passionate teachers, but also to students continuing their journey with us from a younger age, and bringing those experiences along with them.

What do you enjoy most about the age group you teach?

There are so many things that keep me teaching the lower school grades. Their energy and curiosity almost appears limitless, and when they are really connecting with my subject the atmosphere can be electric. What always amazes me is that I can be teaching them complex material that most schools leave for later grades, and they can absorb and understand it.

There can be days when I feel exhausted, but once I get in the classroom they always have a way to lift me up and give me the boost I need. They also give me a great excuse to make a mess (while learning of course)!

What kind of students seem most comfortable at BASIS Independent Silicon Valley?

A student is never more comfortable here then when they are challenging themselves and their peers to push their education to the next level. It’s not always about achieving that A grade, but having the drive to learn and understand new things. The best students I teach are ones who say to themselves “I don’t know that, but I want to.”

It’s your 5 year anniversary at BASIS Independent Silicon Valley, what are you reflecting on this year? What brings you back to BISV each year?

The time has flown by here, and I really can’t believe sometimes that I’m starting my fifth year. I’ve grown so much as a teacher and attribute that a lot to the students and my colleagues. The students here are incredible, and just the standard curriculum alone is not enough for them. Each year I reflect on how I can raise my levels to keep up with them. I feel so lucky to be able to work with the teachers around me. Their expertise and insight is second to none, and really does feel like I’m working in a close community.

Can you share an anecdote about one of your favorite young students who may have struggled academically, and how he or she finally had that a-ha moment in one of your classes?

I taught a student in grade 5 who was really struggling, and their scores reflected that struggle. I eventually spoke to the student about this and all I asked them to do was raise their hand and simply say “I don’t get it” whenever there was a concept they were lost on. After that first “I don’t get it” moment, it felt like a switch had been flipped and the student realized that by admitting they need help, and working hard to improve, can really make a difference. A colleague who taught them Chemistry last year recently shared with me that this same student aced their chemistry comprehensive exams. I could not be more proud of them.

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BASIS Independent Silicon Valley is a grades 5-12 private school based in San Jose, California, providing students an internationally benchmarked liberal arts and sciences curriculum.