Nominations had praise for local teachersPublished 5:42am Sunday, March 24, 2013
Column: Guest Column, by Mary Hinnenkamp
As long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a teacher. When I was in eighth grade at Catholic school many years ago, one of the nuns got sick and there were no substitute nuns. Nuns weren’t supposed to get sick, I guess. I was asked to take over the third grade class for part of the day for several days running. I loved it — and I was hooked.
It seems that this is true for many teachers, that they decide pretty early on (60 percent while they were still in high school, according to a Scholastic Magazine survey) that this is what they want to do with their lives.
So what is it? What attracts people to this career? A further reading of the Scholastic survey indicates that there are two main reasons that teachers become teachers. The No. 1 reason (81 percent) is the desire to work with children. For me that rings true because I enjoy the interaction with students more than any other part of my job. The second reason (73 percent) is the love of the subject matter. Again this rings true for me. I am convinced that it was my love of reading that brought me to the decision of becoming an English teacher. My experiences with reading were instilled in me by a variety of forces: teachers who turned me on to great books, the book mobile that came to town once a week, and even the boredom and hard work of life on a dairy farm (pack those hay bales, and then sneak a few pages of “Gone with the Wind”). And what better way to spend my life than teaching others about books and the joy of reading?
While many people now try to present teaching as a science rather than an art, I am convinced that the Scholastic survey has it right, that it is a mixture of both. Teaching is indeed loving students, the material and then bringing them together for effective learning.
Each year, the Albert Lea Teacher of the Year Committee requests nominations from people from all facets of the community for the Teacher of the Year honor. This year, 58 teachers were nominated. Nominations were received from parents, students (some as young as second grade), colleagues and other teachers. The comments on the nominations bear out this science — art balance.
Needless to say, teachers are appreciated for their knowledge of the material and their skills to make that material come alive. Hence comments about teachers such as “students fully engaged,” “accommodating,” “high expectations,” “challenges,” “hands-on,” “willing to try new things,” “quality teaching,” “searching for better assessments,” “using new activities,” “skilled,” “is passionate about her subject matter,” “made math fun,” “on task,” “teaches the whole child,” “my child is better at reading” and “communicates with families.”
Perhaps, because the teachers who are nominated are understood to be knowledgeable and skilled, it is those other qualities that seem to dominate the nominations. There are so many comments in the nominations referring to teachers as “patient,” “unselfish,” “awesome and cool,” “has rapport,” “makes sure each student feels special and respected,” “ available,” “listens,” “kind, helpful, compassionate,” “dedicated … empowers,” “funny,” “positive,” “encourages,” “believes in me,” “nice,” “amazing,” “always smiling,” “mentor,” “caring,” “kind and generous,” “creative” and “never gives up.”
One comment about an elementary teacher read, “Her classroom is a place where students love to go and never want to leave.” A comment about a secondary teacher read, “She is compassionate, understanding, firm, consistent, dedicated, kind, forgiving, quirky, professional and intelligent.”
Wow! Who would not be proud to be part of this profession? And who would not feel privileged to work with such talented and amazing people?
On March 27, the Teacher of the Year Committee will announce the teacher chosen to represent Albert Lea at the next level. As always, with so many talented and dedicated teachers, it will be a difficult choice.
Mary Hinnenkamp is on the Teacher of the Year Committee for Albert Lea Area Schools.