Monday, May 2, 2016

Appreciation for one of the BEST

As schools across the country celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, they pause to recognize the amazing educators in their buildings; caring adults who connect with their students, design effective instruction, and engage young people in meaningful learning.  I'm sure many schools have really good teachers that continually go above and beyond, come in early and stay late, sponsor school activities, and attend student events.  In some schools, there's likely that ONE teacher who does all of that and then looks for MORE ways to get involved and help children.  It is rare though, when one teacher is named over and over again as the reason why former students come back to visit, one that is referenced by the high school valedictorian as the ONE teacher who made the biggest impact on her education, one that is highly respected by fellow teachers, parents, community members, students, and administrators.  I had the privilege of working with a teacher like this for 10 years.  

Truly humble, this teacher does not even realize the role model he has been for so many, for so long.  The extra effort that he puts toward everything--it's just the way he is.  He is positive, thoughtful, dedicated, and genuine.  Committed to his calling as a teacher, he has mentored student teachers from local universities as well as teachers new to the profession, always providing guidance and nurturing their professional growth.  He is a leader among his fellow teachers, a remarkable educator of 34 years, and was even recognized as a finalist for the Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year last year.

In the classroom, he is a natural.  Dynamic and personable, he interjects personal stories and uses humor, ensuring student engagement.  Always a team player, he leads collaboration among his team mates, coordinating interdisciplinary activities, and school events. He is the first to jump “on board” to any initiative that he believes will improve the education of students, even if it takes him out of his comfort zone.  

This teacher's involvement in the school community is unparalleled.  His ongoing sponsorship of after school programs allows him to model community service for young people in the community.   He coordinated school fundraisers and taught students to give back-- donating to worthy local and national charities.  He organizes the annual spelling bee, coordinates gift baskets for Breakfast with Santa, and volunteers at the annual students vs. faculty basketball game. (In his "free time", he also volunteers at his church and other community organizations.)

Each year he has reflected on his practice and developed goals for himself, always striving to be a better teacher--even up until this last year.  He demonstrates what it means to be an excellent educator in every way.  

As he prepares to retire this year, I want him to know what a tremendous impact he has had on me and on so many others.  His dedication to teaching and learning is inspiring.  I know that retiring will not mean that he will leave education.  He has already discussed supervising student teachers, volunteering at a local university science center, and consulting for his school district.  Even in retirement, I know he will continue to share his passions with others as an educator and mentor.  I wouldn't expect anything less!

Congratulations on your retirement, Jim.  You are truly the BEST!