When out in the community, I'm often stopped by people who want to talk about our schools. Some share their support, others share concerns. I'm happy to talk about both and anything in between.

Conversations seem to revolve around topics that are in the news -- budget deficits, state legislation, construction projects. They're all interesting subjects and an important part of my responsibilities as superintendent.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

As an educator, however, what I most like to discuss is the work that goes on in the classroom.

To me, that's the big news and the most compelling. Learning is not a dry topic -- it's a real, exciting, sometimes exhilarating interaction that occurs when one human being helps another grow in knowledge and understanding.

That's the best part of education -- the "aha!" moment. It can be seen, heard, and felt in classrooms across the city every day. Having worked as a teacher, I know the power of it, and there's nothing quite like it. A challenging concept is shared, a student may respond with puzzlement, even frustration. It make take a few more tries, a helpful hint or redirection from the teacher and then -- the eye sparkles, there's a smile, a look of excitement from the student that says, "I get it!" As a district administrator I still love to visit classrooms and watch for that defining moment.

Teachers spend their careers gathering the expertise necessary to create those moments. They start with their own education: a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, and possibly beyond. They hone their skills through classroom experience and opportunities to expand their knowledge through professional development.

Teachers work with administrators to continually improve curriculum and align it with state and national standards. They share strategies and research the latest and best practices to offer students as many "aha!" moments as they can. Developing a student's inner sense of direction is also key to success. Our teachers help students set long- and short-term goals for themselves; in that way, students learn how to guide themselves independently, toward greater aspirations in the future.

National Teacher Appreciation week is observed in May. That's also the time of year we recognize inspirational teachers through the Goldfine Gold Star Teacher Awards, an annual celebration made possible through the generous support of Manley and Lillian Goldfine, in partnership with the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation.

This year's nominees are Greg Jones, Cathy Klaber-Hartl, Annette Strom and Karla Winterfeld. The criteria for the award reflect key elements related to inspiring the best in students -- impact in the classroom, leadership within the school and community, and ongoing efforts to improve skills through professional development, among others. All four nominees are excellent examples of these attributes, and of the talented and dedicated teaching staff we're fortunate to have in our schools.

Congratulations to our nominees, and to the teachers in our community who guide students through those "aha!" moments, and in doing so inspire them to even greater success.

Bill Gronseth is the superintendent of Duluth Public Schools. Contact him at (218)336-8752 or send an e-mail to william. gronseth@duluth.k12.mn.us.