Appreciating Teachers

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I heard New York’s 2007 teacher-of-the-year, Marguerite Izzo, on a PBS News Hour report the other day describe how she does “five shows daily.” She appears to be a dynamo, who makes every lesson interesting.

It’s no surprise that you need to be at least somewhat exciting and engaging in class to compete for kids’ mindshare with videogames, cell phone cameras and text messaging.

Some teachers are born performers. Others have to learn to keep their students’ attention. Either way, I think we need to appreciate all it takes to get up in front of a tough audience of modern school kids and try to reach into their complex, fast paced, media-tuned minds.

And “performing” is only one aspect good teaching.

So, as the school year draws to a close, here’s a thank you to the teachers we admire.

For understanding that the real measure of teaching is not what you cover, but what you can get your students to absorb.

For often putting your personal problems on hold and bringing your “A” game to class.

For igniting students’ interest in things that matter.

For spending hours of work time outside the classroom that your students never see.

For constantly assessing and adjusting your approach, looking for the best ways to reach your students.

For not being afraid to try new techniques.

For working with parents to give students consistent messages and reinforcement at home and at school.

For accepting that students with physical or mental challenges are just as deserving of your time and attention as “typical” students.

For showing “difficult” students that you still believe in them when others have given up.

For thinking of every new class as “your” students.

For seeing students as individuals and seeking out their strengths.

For celebrating students’ accomplishments.

For staying connected to students after they leave your class.

For knowing that if you can reach just one student in your class…but then, reaching just one student was never an option for you, was it?

For accepting students as they are, as you help them become what they can be.

Before I close, I'd like to go back to that News Hour report, by Time Magazine essayist Nancy Gibbs. It cited a National Education Association poll of teachers that asked what gift would make them feel most appreciated. The top response by a landslide? To hear someone say “Thank you.”

Here’s hoping that deserving teachers everywhere receive that reward.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter produces educational videos that help schools and parents support students who have Asperger Syndrome and autism. You can find more articles on his website at

Copyright 2008 Dan Coulter Used by Permission. All Rights Reserved.

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