Grass Valley Charter School teacher earns national Expeditionary Learning honor |

Grass Valley Charter School teacher earns national Expeditionary Learning honor

Pictured are Merry Byles-Daly and students on a pre-kindergarten learning expedition about bears in Bear Valley off Highway 20 in Nevada City, May 2013.
Submitted by Merry Byles-Daly |

For Merry Byles-Daly, teaching is engaging students to look beyond themselves and explore various in-depth topics to better understand the surrounding world.

The Grass Valley Charter School teacher upholds the school’s model of expeditionary learning, which focuses on striving for academic achievement, molding a child’s character and instilling an ethic of citizen scholarship.

Byles-Daly was recently rewarded for her efforts in expeditionary learning, as she was chosen the winner of the 2013 Klingenstein Teacher Award Oct. 24 in Atlanta, as part of the National Expeditionary Learning Conference.

As part of the recognition, Byles-Daly received a $5,000 grant and will present a masterclass at the Expeditionary Learning National Conference in 2014.

“I am so proud and grateful to be an Expeditionary Learning teacher, privileged to work with students and colleagues who tackle the world with such rigor and heart every day.”
Merry Byles-Daly
Grass Valley Charter School teacher

“Our entire philosophy at Expeditionary Learning is built on exemplary teaching and building capacity for strong, capable and enthusiastic teachers like Merry and all of the nominees,” Scott Hartl, CEO of Expeditionary Learning, said.

“What makes this award even more meaningful is that Merry was chosen by her peers — an extraordinary network of dedicated teachers, who know how to recognize excellence and celebrate alongside her.”

A teacher of more than 40 years, Byles-Daly has worked with a dozen schools in the Expeditionary Learning network and was able to help Grass Valley Charter students with their Save the Parks initiative, as they took action in writing to state officials and representatives in a successful campaign to keep the locally loved South Yuba River State Park open.

“That moment was truly among my proudest,” Byles-Daly said.

“When I reflected on the miracle of how our students were able to accomplish such a feat, one thing became crystal clear: They had been preparing for that moment from the time they started in Grass Valley Charter School in pre-kindergarten. Over the years, they had been steeped in Expeditionary Learning core practices, they had embraced our 10 design principles, our character traits, our habits of scholarship and the concept of crew.

“I am so proud and grateful to be an Expeditionary Learning teacher, privileged to work with students and colleagues who tackle the world with such rigor and heart every day.”

Byles-Daly said when the Grass Valley Charter crew learned in February 2012 that the South Yuba River State Park would remain open, she celebrated by taking a visit to the river.

“While we were there, we would do everything we loved: geology, water quality testing, erosion experiments, rock art, ladybug data collection and, of course, some joyous skipping of rocks,” Byles-Daly said in her acceptance speech.

The $5,000 grant will be used to fund an outdoor science laboratory, which has been a topic of interest for at least a decade, she said.

“We wrote a grant to develop our garden into an edible schoolyard, and it was funded, but it wasn’t enough to complete the science center part,” Byles- Daly said.

“This $5,000 is enough to be able to complete this dream of having an outdoor education area, where kids can work on hands-on science on a regular basis.”

Byles-Daly said she initially was embarrassed by the recognition.

“Later, I realized that this award was being given to one person to represent all the great work that all of us are doing; and it felt OK to me,” she said.

Byles-Daly said she appreciates the unifying philosophy of Expeditionary Learning, that it begins in pre-kindergarten and continues through eighth grade, focusing on building character traits and principles, respect, responsibility and consideration of others.

Grass Valley Charter Principal Brian Martinez said Byles-Daly epitomizes the purpose and practice of Expeditionary Learning.

“She trains students to be masters of their own destiny and empowers (them) to make a difference in the world and community we live in,” Martinez said.

“She was a spearheading force for our Save the Parks campaign two years ago. She organized those kids and helped them kind of find their voice for that whole process. So she’s kind of a master of that kind of thing, and through it all, she’s teaching all this rigorous content.”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email or call 530-477-4230.

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