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Recognizing Great Teachers

October 16, 2012 posted by Abby Parker

Humility, dedication, leadership…and something else. It’s one of those things you can recognize in conversations with them. Something you can feel when you watch them work. I am talking about that “thing” that makes some teachers phenomenal.

It’s confirmed when you hear them speak to the most challenging students with high expectations. It’s backed by the learning gains students in their classroom make over the course of a year. Other teachers and administrators have special stories to share about these kinds of teachers. They are a “go-to” for just about everything in the school building.

StudentsFirst was honored to nominate one of these teachers, Gina Wickstead, for People Magazine’s Teacher of the Year contest. We are celebrating that Gina was selected as a finalist among hundreds of applications.

I believe teachers like Gina can change the world. These are teachers who increase students’ graduation rates and close the achievement gap in their classroom. These are the teachers we need to identify, recognize, and support. And these are the leaders who can help take colleagues to the next level of their craft and inform and shape policies affecting them. Ultimately these teachers elevate the profession into where it should be.

I know this is not simple and I understand many of the complications.

Whether you focus on what we can do to create change or on the challenges we face, I believe teachers have the most important job in our society. And this importance is underscored considering that the system – not the teachers – has been failing our kids for far too long.

We have to focus on what we can do. We can put our heads together and come up with an evaluation system that is fair and robust. And we must do this with urgency because no one’s child can wait another day. We have to ensure leaders and systems are accountable and transparent at every level. We must remain diligent and focused because this work is tough for everyone involved.

We cannot lose sight of the fact that this system should serve kids and support the most critical in-school factor for their success – the teacher. Accountability and support can go hand in hand. Step outside the anti-reform rhetoric and really think about what makes sense for our kids.

I know most of us have experienced talking to a teacher like Gina, and hopefully you have been taught by more than one. They are special, but they are everywhere. Maybe that unidentifiable quality is the sense of humility they carry around with them even though they are doing the most important work of our time.  They hold themselves accountable for student success, and in some of the most under-served communities, their students’ lives.

Topics: Rewarding Effective Teaching