Finding and defining a quality teacher

  • February 8, 2016
  • /   Reggie Dogan
  • /   education

High-quality teachers make all the difference in the classroom.

Study after study shows the single most important factor determining the quality of the education a child receives is the quality of his teacher.

What does it really mean to be great teacher? Of course credentials, knowledge, critical thinking all the other faculties of intelligence are important.

However, a great teacher should be much more than credentials, experience and intelligence.

Greatness in teaching is just as rare as greatness in medicine, law, sports or any other profession.

Even though the qualities that make great teachers are not easy to emulate or duplicate, understanding these qualities can give all teachers a standard of excellence to strive for, and guide schools in their efforts to recruit and retain their best teachers.

Very few people in life are ever recognized for being the best at what they do.

In education, teachers offer toil from sunup to sundown with little recognition and few accolades.

It is fortunate and rewarding that each year schools around the county take the time to select  and honor the top teachers in their districts and states.

In Escambia County, the five finalists for district’s Teacher of the Year have been selected.

Each finalist will be visited and observed before the final selection is made. The winner will be honored on Feb. 25 at the Golden Apple Award ceremony.

The district finalists are:

— Tim Deloge, Escambia High School, engineering.

— Caroline Gray, Tate High School, economics.

— Melissa Harold, Beulah Elementary School, fourth grade.

— Allison Hartzog, Montclair Elementary School, kindergarten.

— Kristy Imhof, Ransom Middle School, seventh grade language arts.

In January, Santa Rosa County School District named Gulf Breeze High School math teacher Stephanie Duffy as its Teacher of the Year.

{{business_name}}Santa Rosa Teacher of the Year Stephanie Duffy Photo

Stephanie Duffy, 2016 Santa Rosa Teacher of the Year

Duffy, along with each nominee, will be recognized at Santa Rosa’s Golden Apple Awards celebrating all Santa Rosa teachers on Feb. 26.

The Santa Rosa Education Foundation Teacher Selection Committee chose Duffy for the award.

Duffy is a Texas State University graduate who has taught math at Gulf Breeze High for 20 years.

As the 2016 award recipient, Duffy is the school district nominee for the Florida Department of Education – Macy’s Teacher of the Year.

The state’s teacher of the year will be selected in May and will be the Florida candidate for National Teacher of the Year, which will be announced in January 2017.

Given the need for an educated populace to meet the increasing demands of a skilled workforce in a complex world, the role of teachers is more important today than ever before.

According to the Center for Public Education, when looking for a qualified teacher, look for a combination of these characteristics:

  • High SAT or other college entrance scores
  • A degree from a selective, rigorous college
  • High scores on the Praxis, or other licensing exam
  • More than four years of experience
  • Strong subject-matter experience

Of course, a teacher can meet all the above criteria, but fail miserably in the real-world classroom environment.

An education reporter for the Washington Post asked the pertinent question in a blog: “Every school wants ‘good’ teachers — but what does ‘good’ actually mean?”

Valerie Strauss understands the dilemma in defining and identifying the characteristics of a great teacher.

In the words of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart after struggling to describe the threshold test for obscenity in a landmark high court case: “I know it when I see it.”

The same holds true for great teachers.

Stauss asks the question and allowed a great teacher to give an example:

What is a “good” teacher? A teacher who raises student test scores? Who gets students interested in subjects they thought were boring? Who inspires students to be more thoughtful people? Here is a post on how to be a “good” teacher by Paul Thomas, an associate professor of education at Furman University in South Carolina. This appeared on his blog, and I am republishing it with permission.

Like any profession, teaching undergoes constant change. The past three decades have witnessed a marked increase in education research and of solid information about teaching and learning.

The best teachers remain intellectually alive, seek professional development and are open to ongoing change grounded in theory, research and practice.

Most teachers find the utmost joy in teaching because of their talent for relating to students.

The most effective teachers draw from the well-known theories, but adapt them to their own personally and professionally.

Watching a great teacher at the top of his or her form is like watching a great surgical or artistic performance.

Even though it is infinitely difficult and painstakingly planned, great teaching appears effortless and seamless.

Once can easily believe that it is the simplest thing in the world — until someone tries to do it.

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