Chris Kinney, in his classroom at Lower Lake High School.

Chris Kinney, in his classroom at Lower Lake High School.

Chris Kinney, a former student of mine who is now teaching in the Clear Lake area of northern California, shares a great update on how choice theory is making a difference in his classroom and school. He also shares some good reminders for many of us in the process.

Hi Dr. Roy,

I received the your email and a request to join your Choice Theory Facebook Page on the same day and I thought it was a happy coincidence.  I have been successful in putting in place Choice Theory practices within my classroom and have received a great response about it, as evidenced in the email below.  Other than that I thought I would drop you and PUC a line about how I am doing at Lower Lake High.

The first year at LLHS I noticed the lack of effort by the students. There was a huge culture of failure.  I approached the principal about creating a new world history class geared towards students achieving a higher success, he agreed and I had 32 students take a Honors level class the following year.  The principal and superintendent took notice and I was placed on a committee to help improve the school on with a campus wide focus. The implementation was this year and already students have said how much they look forward to coming to school, instead of looking at it as just somewhere they have to be.

This year the honors class has grown to two periods with nearly 60 students in it. At first the students were standoffish about taking the class but once in it the use of CT techniques soon leads them to a path of success and enjoyment of the class.  LLHS has also seen an increase in test scores for World History of 25% shift from the bottom two CST levels towards the top three in the past two years.  This success has directly been related to my teaching, and prompted the principal to make me chair of the department and teaching the AP US History class, both of which came with a nice pay bump.

Thank you for helping teach me the use of Choice Theory while I was at PUC.


At the start of this school year Chris was really pleased to receive a letter from a parent helped to confirm his efforts.

Good Morning Mr. Kinney,

I just wanted to take a moment to contact you to let you know what an impact you had on Corrinne.  Prior to the first day of school she was the least excited about your History class and would exclaim that she “hated History”.  When I picked her up from school the first day, she was so excited about your class.  She went on and on about your expectations, your teaching style and she was suddenly so incredibly motivated.  She feels that you have challenged your students to get an A in your class and instead of begrudging it, she is excited to face your challenge.  She would be so perturbed and bothered if she knew I contacted you so please don’t tell her.  I just wanted to thank you for kick starting my sometimes procrastinating sophomore.

Hope you had a great start to your new school year!


When I asked Chris if I could share his email with others he said that would be fine, and went on to share a few more key points.

By all means feel free to share it. It was intended as an artifact that CT works, and can work very quickly in some cases, such as with this student. What I have been doing shows the effect that CT can have on a school, even if only one person is actively doing it. Other staff members are picking it up and asking questions about my classroom management.  I really don’t go out of my way to label what I am doing as the staff is very suspect of “fad teaching” and immediately resent anything that has a label.  What I do find is they see what I am doing as effective teaching regardless of what it is called.  It truly is an amazing transformation that is going on at this school.

Several things stand out for me in Chris’s emails. One is that I introduce candidates to choice theory during their credential classes at PUC, but because of the pressure of state requirements, I am not able to go into a deeper training mode. That Chris is having this kind of impact with an “orientation” level of choice theory is amazing! Imagine what he could do if he dived even more deeply into choice theory. The second thing that stands out for me is the label phenomena. I really agree with Chris that teachers can be highly suspect of something new, especially if it has a label. He is right to simply do what choice theory can do and let people see the results, rather than argue with some about the theory. Chris’s email made my day as one of his former teachers, but it was more than that. He is on the front lines of education in a placement that many would describe as difficult, yet he is thriving and helping his students to thrive, too. May Chris’s testimony be an encouragement to all of us!


Those of you in the northern California area may want to be a part of a Choice Theory study group that will be meeting on Sabbath afternoon, September 21, from 2:00-4:00 PM at Foothills Elementary in St. Helena. You might want to attend the wonderful new church format at The Haven (formerly the Elmshaven SDA Church) and hear Matthew Gamble preach the Word, enjoy the meal provided each week by The Haven, and then head the short distance to the school for the study group. Mark it in your calendar and make plans to join us.