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Dustin Bell, a STEAM and social studies teacher at Pleasants County Middle School, has earned West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Above and Beyond Award for October, which recognizes excellence and creativity of Mountain State teachers.
Bell was presented the award in front of the student body, Assistant Principal Tyrell Childers, Superintendent Mike Wells, and his wife Amanda Bell during an exhilarating pumpkin drop event organized by Bell himself. He received a monetary award and a signature Blenko Glass blue apple paperweight. The award is sponsored by the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office, presenter of the SMART529 college savings program in the Mountain State.
The pumpkin drop has been a tradition for Pleasants County Middle School for multiple years, led by Bell and two other STEAM teachers. Previously the pumpkins were dropped from the roof, and participation was limited to STEAM classes. However, in recent years, participation has opened to all students, and due to collaboration with Luminant, the experience has been amplified with a crane. Luminant representative Tim Ansell was helping with pumpkin clean up and stated that Luminant has been a partner in education for three years. They gladly help reserve the crane and donate snacks for the students.
The pumpkin drop is one example of many to support why Dustin Bell earned the Above and Beyond award for October. His lessons and activities are engaging, innovative, and fun for students. In Childers nomination for Bell, he listed lessons and projects that included woodworking, telegraphs, hot air balloons, and a Zombie Map. For example, to assess map skills, students are presented with a prompt that Zombies have taken over Pleasants County, and they are tasked with designing a new settlement using map skills they have learned in the classroom.
Bell also enjoys woodworking and incorporated this in his STEAM classes by teaching students the basics of working with wood and basic tools. Students are given choices of plans created by Bell, including a birdhouse, flower box, small chest, and a plant shelf. Bell feels that learning these hands-on skills is crucial for students and their future career choices or helping them in their own homes.
This year Bell is going Above and Beyond by encouraging students to be involved in the community by starting the Good Citizen Project. This project shows the importance of community service and how to be a good citizen. Some students picked up trash around their neighborhood, volunteered at the animal shelter, assisted an elderly neighbor, and one student cleaned leaves and trash out of their neighboring nursing home’s flower beds. Next year, Bell plans on coordinating with community members and organizations to provide a variety of projects students can choose from to practice being a good citizen.
Bell is passionate about his students and teaching them skills they can use for a lifetime. When asked what he loves most about his job, he said his students are what he loves most. “Seeing students out in public, having them come to me bursting with excitement about some news in their life, and seeing them grow from young, Minecraft obsessed little kids to amazing, fully functional adults. It is inspiring and what keeps me going on those days when I can tell it’s a full moon without even looking.”
Each month, WVPB has an esteemed panel of judges that select one deserving teacher who goes above and beyond for the students in West Virginia. If you know of a deserving teacher that goes “Above and Beyond,” please click here to nominate them.