Schools column: Favorite teachers are caringWho was your favorite teacher? It’s something most of us have in common — a favorite teacher who made a positive difference.
By: Bill Gronseth, For the Budgeteer News
Who was your favorite teacher?
It’s something most of us have in common — a favorite teacher who made a positive difference. Maybe it was someone who pushed harder, got to know us better, or helped us through a difficult situation. Perhaps a teacher who presented subjects with a special vibrancy and passion, opening our minds to new possibilities, inspiring us to stretch ourselves. Whatever the reason, they hold a special place in our lives.
Much is expected of modern teachers. In addition to earning advanced degrees, they must keep their education and experience current, studying the best ways to maintain a positive school climate, learning how best to support students from different backgrounds, and staying abreast of academic standards. They train to respond to emergencies and invest their time and talent in activities outside the classroom, to the benefit of our students, families and community.
In some countries, education is among the most respected of professions. Teachers are honored and valued and there is much competition to enter teacher colleges and universities. Many of these countries send teachers to the United States to learn more about American education and bring back skills and strategies. In Duluth, our schools work in partnership with local universities to host educators from other countries. These experiences can be profound and life-changing for both the visitor and the host.
I experienced that impact recently while visiting one of our schools. I walked down the hall, greeting students and teachers, and stopped by a class working on math problems. As students raised their hands the teacher worked with each one to provide support. When the math teacher saw me at the door, I received a friendly greeting and was invited to come in and help.
I entered and noticed a woman sitting quietly at the back of the room, watching us. I knew she was a visiting teacher from South Korea. After helping a couple students I noticed this visitor had tears in her eyes.
I approached her and asked if everything was okay — and she began to cry. I tried to console her but that seemed to make things worse, so I apologized and excused myself.
Later, one of the Korean administrators helped me understand. The visitor from South Korea was touched by what she saw that day — our math teacher encouraging students, and the superintendent visiting the classroom, smiling, helping out. The fact that I noticed her tears and treated her kindly — in short, that I cared — was the reason she began to cry.
Degrees and training are important, but perhaps the most important thing we can do as educators is to care. Think hard about your favorite teacher, the one that made the biggest difference, and I’ll bet that person is someone who cared deeply — about you, about the subject, about what went on in that classroom.
In Duluth, we have an annual opportunity to honor teachers who care, who work to inspire the best in our students. Through the generosity of the Manley and Lillian Goldfine family, we celebrate exemplary teachers through the Goldfine Gold Star Teacher Award. This year the award will honor elementary school teachers and the recipient of the award will be announced in May, during National Teacher Appreciation week.
As we come to the end of the school year, let’s remember and honor the teachers we knew and those we know, who make a difference because they care.
Bill Gronseth is the superintendent of Duluth Public Schools. Contact him at (218)336-8752 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.