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Archive for the ‘Honored Educators’ Category

Happy, Magical New Years

Groverweb2On the eve of this New Year, I’d like to thank you for your service to the young people in our region, who can never have too many loving and supportive adults in their lives.  Henry David Thoreau writes, “To affect the quality of the day is the highest of the arts.”   You have the privilege and the challenge of affecting the quality of students’ lives every day with the magic — and hard work — of learning and the promise of many Happy New Years.

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We Thank You

choose_btm_04Over this long weekend that celebrates Thanksgiving, we want to thank our readers for their work educating young people.   Some, unaware of the dedication and determination it takes to be effective teachers, may joke about the number of days off in a school calendar.  From 30+ years of  teaching, I know that these breaks are needed to refresh ourselves, renew our energy, and reflect on our practice.

Practice teaching is not just a 6 or 8 week assignment but a lifetime of daily caring for students, believing in their potential, and cultivating their young minds.  Angela Duckworth says in the PBS TED Talks Education special that “Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”  Lasting success in any field takes grit and determination for long-term goals, and often teachers never know how their work affects students’ futures.

So we thank you and hope you enjoy these precious moments with family and friends.  We’ll be here for you again on Monday to support you in your practice.

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skd283128sdcNew York Time’s writer Michael Sokolove recently returned to his alma mater, Truman High, to write, “The Real-Life ‘Glee’ in Levittstown, Pa.”   Central to the article is Lou Volpe, his former teacher who directed an outstanding drama program in an otherwise unremarkable town.  The article holds lessons for all teachers who want to make a real impact on students.

As Volpe retires after more than 40 years of teaching, the words of former students help define effective teaching.  For example, Volpe had applauded Sokolove’s writing as a student by simply asking,  “Has anyone ever told you that you’re a good writer?” and making Sokolove aware of his talents beyond the athletic field.  Volpe calls Mariela Castillo, who is challenged by a working class background and remedial classes attributed to childhood leukemia, one of his most talented actresses.  Of him she says:  “In theater, everything is staged and organized. It goes in order and fits together. I’ve seen how Mr. Volpe is so brilliant at that, and it’s helped me organize my life in the same way.”

Of Volpe’s relationship with students, Sokolove writes, “At a certain moment, he knew them better than they knew themselves. That is what gifted, intuitive teachers do. What they say doesn’t have to be that profound — just well timed and well aimed. Their words go to a place that no other teacher, and no parent, has touched.” As the article reveals, Volpe’s gifts are hard won through self-motivated professional development, self-exploration, and recognition of students’ potential.  Read entire article.

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indexWe’re happy to share another profile of a recipient of the 2013 Pioneer Valley Teacher of Excellence Awards.   Jamie Lynn Lewinski, district ESL teacher for the Granby Public Schools, sent in the following responses, which reveal her dedication and commitment to making a difference in students’ lives.

Why have you become a teacher?  I chose to become a teacher to make a difference in my community.  Working with English Language Learners is extremely rewarding as it allows me to help a group of students who are at high risk for not completing their public education.

What keeps you enthusiastic about teaching, and where do you find your inspiration?  My inspiration comes from the diverse population of students that I teach.  Their families sacrifice so much and are faced with so many challenges.

Who has been a role model for you and why?  My great aunt always emphasized to me how important an education was.  She instilled in me the value of a college education and the importance of sharing knowledge with others.

What is a favorite classroom resources?  My favorite classroom resource is my iPad.  I’ve just begun tapping into its potential use in the classroom but the students are already loving it.

How do you try to keep a balance between the demands of your professional and person life?  I have trouble keep a balance because the relationships I build with my students and their families become very personal, which blurs the lines between my professional and personal life.  I best serve my families by being available during non-school hours.

If you could change just one thing in education today, what would it be?  It’s still frustrating to me that there never seems to be enough money to provide adequate services to our children.  If we short change our children, we shortchange our future.

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SKMBT_C55413082011080_0001We’ve been privileged to share the profiles of recipients of the Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Awards.  Here, in our last profile of the summer, are the responses of Rita MacInnis, first grade teacher in the Williamsburg-Hampshire Regional School District.  We thought that  her love of her work made her profile especially appropriate since we just celebrated Labor Day.

Why have you become a teacher?  I always wanted to teach, from the time I was young.

What support did you receive, or wish you had received, early in your teaching career?  My husband, also a teacher and administrator, was always my mentor and supported me through jobs, job interviews and all teaching experiences.

What keeps you enthusiastic about teaching, and where do you find your inspiration?  I love my job!  I love greeting my smiley students each morning.  I want to do everything I can to ensure their love of learning and to support, nurture and enrich their school experience.  They are my inspiration.

Who has been a role model for you?  My husband, Tim Luce.

What is a favorite classroom resource (e.g., website, lesson, activity)?  I enjoy the resource, Mailbox magazine.  I also use the internet and Pinterest for current ideas.  Fountas and Pinnell phonics is a program I use and recommend as well.  To gain my first graders’ attention, I often raise my hand and say, “5 –  eyes are watching, ears are listening, mouths are quiet, bodies are still and hearts are caring.

How do you try to keep a balance between the demands of your professional and personal life?  It is definitely easier now that my children are grown, but I always made time to go to their after-school activities and games.  On weekends I would enlist their help to make games or charts and to help me in the classroom.  I have found that if I am well prepared for school each day, then I am less stressed, and I am a happier wife and mother.

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indexPamela White teaches business and technology at Chicopee Comprehensive High School.  One of this year’s recipients of the Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Awards, she got hooked as an educator when first serving in the U. S. Air Force.

What motivated you to become a teacher/educator? I’ve always had an interest in education and became hooked after becoming a Training Manager in the Air Force working to provide quality training to airman.

What support did you receive, or wish you had received, early in your career?  A stronger program to help mid-career professionals transition to the teaching profession.

What keeps you enthusiastic about teaching/education, and where do you find inspiration?  Our school district is open to developing curriculum to support the ever-changing, technology-based applications and workforce requirements.

What do you find helps you to effectively interact with students?  Develop “fair” practices in the classroom; and listen to students.

How do you try to balance the demands of your professional and personal life?  Although, we live outside the school district, my family is very supportive by attending CCHS sporting events or academic activities during the school year.

If you could change just one thing in education today, what would it be?  Ensuring Consistent Practices.  Students thrive on fairness, routines and equitable reward or discipline.

What is some of the best advice you’ve been given? Or what is a favorite quotation?  A veteran teacher once told me that “these aren’t your own children, but they need you just the same.”

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FaCET-logo_300x300During the 2012-2013 school year, Lauri Aliengena experienced her second year of teaching third graders at Woodland Elementary School in Southwick, MA.  This past spring she became a recipient of the Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award.  While she’s still early in her teaching career, Lauri’s responses to our questions reveal characteristics important to effective teaching — a love of children and learning.

What motivated you to become a teacher/educator?  I have known that I wanted to teach since I was a young girl.  I love learning and get very excited to share that with those around me.

 What support did you receive, or wish you had received, early in your career?  I am early in my career, and I am fortunate enough to have very supportive colleagues, but I do wish that someone would teach me the questions to ask and the steps to take to get particular testing done on students I feel have special needs.

 What keeps you enthusiastic about teaching/education, and where do you find inspiration?  I find my inspiration in my students.  I plan trying to create a fun and informative environment.  This in itself gets me excited because I cannot wait to see their receptiveness, reactions and interactions with the curriculum.

 Who has been a role model for you and why?  My best role models have been the wonderful veteran teachers that I have known whose continual effort, enthusiasm and curiosity have ensured that they are outstanding.

 What do you find helps you to effectively interact with students?  I love children, and I also love diversity (diversity in ethnicity, gender, family make-up, personality traits, etc.).  A classroom is the perfect place to find all of those things.

 What is some of the best advice you’ve been given? Or what is a favorite quotation?  Teaching has to be from your soul.  It’s not something you learn.  It’s who you are.

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imagesPerhaps you’re familiar with Khan Academy and its founder,  Salman Khan.  According to the TED: Ideas Worth Spreading website, the  mission of the not-for-profit Khan Academy is to provide a world-class education for free to anyone in the world.

Formerly a hedge fund senior analyst who also worked in technology and venture capital, Khan has impressive credentials with an MBA from Harvard Business School, an M.Eng and B.S. in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT, and a B.S. in mathematics from MIT.  Equally impressive is his ability to simplify course content so that self-paced learners understand in ways that motivate and inspire them.  Over 1 million students visit the site per month to view his 2000+ video tutorials on everything from basic addition to advanced calculus, physics, chemistry and biology.

In his 2011 TED Talk Let’s use video to reinvent education, Khan discusses the inevitable learning gaps of one-size-fits-all classroom learning and the use of his tutorials to flip the classroom, leaving students to view the lesson/lecture at home and freeing teachers to facilitate one-on-one classroom learning, including the use of assessment tools that lead to true growth.  At the end of Salmon’s talk and a long standing ovation, Bill Gates joins him on stage for a Q & A session that we think you’ll also want to see.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about this or another TED talk as well as flipping the classroom.

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indexOur educator profile this week is of Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award recipient Karen Chouinard-Sheedy, who teaches cosmetology at William J. Dean Technical High School in Holyoke, MA.  You can hear her dedication to and appreciation of teaching in her responses to the following questions.

What motivated you to become a teacher/educator?  I started out as a professional in the cosmetology trade.  Throughout my years working behind the chair, I had the opportunity to educate my clients about their hair and skin needs.  I wanted to expand my horizons and decided to go back to school and become an educator in my field.

What support did you receive, or wish you had received, early in your career?  I was very fortunate to have a great mentor when I began my career at Dean Tech High School.   Her name is Sandie Longpre, and she was running the Cosmetology Department at Dean when I arrived there. She inspired me to become the instructor that I am today.

What keeps you enthusiastic about teaching/education, and where do you find inspiration?  Through the years, so much has changed in education and hairstyle trends.  It is both exciting and challenging to keep up with the rigouous needs of both DESE and the Industry.

Do you have a favorite resource, website, lesson/activity that you’d like to share?  Because of the nature of the subject that I teach (cosmetology), I am constantly including differenciated activities to present the frameworks of the technical program.

How do you try to balance the demands of your professional and personal life?  I am at the point in my life where the demands of my personal life are minimal.  My family is grown, and many of the responsibilities that go along with a growing family are no longer an issue.  This gives me more time to plan lessons and attend professional development activities.  I also work as a graduation coach and mentor in my building.

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indexThis week we’re profiling Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award recipient Nicholas Bernier, who teaches seventh-grade social studies at Agawam High School.   As you’ll read in his responses to questions we posed to him this spring, Nicholas knows the importance of nurturing positive relationships with students and reflecting honestly about his practice.

What support did you receive, or wish you had received, early in your career?  I received all of the support I could ask for from my colleagues and principal at St. Mary’s Academy in Longmeadow.  I worked closely with teachers there and learned the in’s and out’s of the profession that one cannot learn in college.

What keeps you enthusiastic about teaching/education, and where do you find inspiration?  Seeing students grow into young adults, become more independent, and discover things about the world is very inspirational.  Being a part of that keeps me enthusiastic.

Who has been a role model for you and why?  My parents gave me all of the tools that I needed to succeed and taught me how to have a good work ethic.  For this, I would consider them to be role models.

What do you find helps you to effectively interact with students?  Forming positive relationships is a good start.  Also, when any sort of negative interaction occurs, ensuring that it is discussed and fixed so there can be closure and the student knows that there is no grudge.  Younger kids sometimes think that when one thing happens, then you dislike them for the rest of the year.  It is crucial that they know that all is well between you.  Also, caring goes a long way.  A student can sense who cares about them like a dog can sense fear.  If a student feels cared about, they will work hard for you and you will get along great.

What is some of the best advice you’ve been given? Or what is a favorite quotation?  My mentor teacher, Lesley Brodeur once told me that in teaching, you will often question things that you do or how you may have handled something, but if you can go to bed at night and put your head on the pillow and know that you have done a good job, that’s all that matters.  If you are honest with yourself when you reflect, you can continue to become a better teacher.

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