Pioneer High School teacher Don Bland and Lahontan Valley News Editor Emeritus Steve Ranson have been honored by the Nevada Association of School Boards with two of their top awards. Bland was named the 2017 Innovative Educator of the Year while Ranson was honored with the Media Award for Outstanding Education Reporting in a county with a population less than 100,000.
In addition the Carson City School District Board and superintendent Richard Stokes were honored as the Governance Team of the Year. Bland and Ranson and the Carson district officials were honored with others on Saturday during the Nevada Association of School Boards annual conference at the Atlantis.
Bland is in his second career serving at Pioneer High School. He previously worked for a consulting group that specialized in master planning for school districts in California. After that chapter in his life, Bland began his Nevada teaching career in Lyon County where he developed a Gifted and Talented program that benefited many students attending Lyon schools. Four years ago, Bland arrived at Pioneer High School as a biology teacher. There he implemented a Health Science Career and Technical Education course.
This program has since evolved into a three-year sequence that includes Health Information Management I and II. Bland has worked with local healthcare companies to get their help in obtaining the most up-to-date software in this field, making Pioneer High School the only school in Nevada to offer electronic recording. Bland has worked with Physician’s Management to begin an internship program for interested students.
As a result of the experiences Bland has provided students in this health care program, its graduates are able to enter the working world right after graduation making $18 per hour. Graduates are actively recruited by local healthcare companies.
Bland also started a Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) Club. His health students competed in the 2017 State Leadership conference in Reno where they earned both gold and silver medals. Bland also started a music class that includes beginning and advanced guitar with keyboard and percussion components.
Ranson has built an impressive legacy as a journalist, as an English and journalism teacher in Nevada schools, and as a Nevada Army National Guard military journalist. During his 30-year academic career, including 10 years as vice principal at Churchill County Middle School, Ranson was always involved in journalism: teaching it during the day and writing articles for the Lahontan Valley News covering school community news when he wasn’t in the classroom. He retired from Churchill County School District in 2005 and went to work full time for the Lahonton Valley News. In addition to his academic career and his news reporting career, Ranson served as a military journalist for the Nevada Army National Guard from 1982 until his retirement as a lieutenant colonel in 2009 — writing military news from as far away as Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, the Arabian Sea and Southeast Asia.
Churchill County School District honored Ranson with the Teacher of the Year Award in 1995; the Nevada Press Association named Ranson co-journalist of the year in 2012.
In being honored as the Governance Team of the Year, the Carson board and Stokes were recognized for implementing a learner-centered instruction practice districtwide that’s improving student achievement across all grade levels. In 2012, the Carson City School District received a $10 million federal Race-to-the-Top grant.
With those monies, the district embarked on an ambitious goal of restructuring and aligning all curriculum at the high school level. As this grant-funded project wrapped up during the 2016-2017 school year, the district had redesigned and aligned 350 high school courses and built 3,000 common assessments. Additionally, 100,000 learning targets were developed and tracked by students in real time. Included as part of the learner-centered instruction project, all schools established a School Support Team. Carson City students are already seeing benefits from the learner-centered model.
The 2016 graduation rates were the highest they have been in years.
Another indication that students are learning more is the increase in pass rates across all high school grades. The learner-centered instruction practice is helping more students achieve competence and mastery; therefore, more students are meeting graduation requirements.