In the trade of education, quality teaching has always been a hot button issue.
To recognize quality teachers in Arizona, the Arizona Education nominates a teacher of the year to represent excellent teachers and to give new teacher role models, said Bobby O’Boyle, the executive director of the Arizona Educational Foundation.
The Arizona Educational Foundation is a non-profit corporation which aims “to administer programs that develop and celebrate excellence in PreK-12th grade public education in Arizona through community partnerships,” according to the AEF’s website.
Quality teachers don’t distinguish themselves by a single trait or teaching strategy, but by commitment, adaptability, and great care for students, distinguished teachers say.
The national teacher of the year nomination is run out of Washington D.C., but the AEF is taking lead on the election here in Arizona, O’Boyle said.
Nominees are admired by coworkers, and students, and are usually recommended by the people they work with, she said.
“Everyone will come up with different definitions what makes up a good teacher, but we are looking for multiple dimensions,” she said.
For O’Boyle, quality teachers must be dedicated to their students, highly motivated, and very passionate and caring about what they do. It is also important to make learning fun, she added.
The first thing that makes for a quality teacher is selflessness, said Joy Weiss, a 13 year teaching veteran and 2010 Arizona Teacher of the Year.
“Teachers in general are very giving, but selflessness is important. Students are first and foremost in the classroom,” Weiss said.
Weiss knows that especially in Arizona teachers face problems that may not be as common in other places.
Teaching children who don’t have a firm grasp on the English language is one hurdle, Weiss added.
To overcome this difference teachers have to seek further education and dedicate additional time to those particular students, she said.
“The best teachers that are out there take risks and think outside of the box,” Weiss said.
In order to help students, teachers must pursue professional development.
That is why teachers can work toward further certifications besides their teaching certificate, like a National Board Certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Studies show that National Board certified teachers make a great difference when multiple teachers in a school are certified, said Brain Lewis, the NBPTS Chief Strategy Officer.
This is because this certification helps teachers to learn more about their own professions, he said
Most of the core propositions go hand in hand with commitment to students and professional development.
It is one thing to be really smart and then another thing in how to use that knowledge in the classroom, Lewis said.
“How does a doctor become a great doctor? They learn and practice,” he said, and that is exactly what teacher must do, he added.
Great teachers use their resources and acquire mentors to learn more, O’Boyle said.
In addition to that, teachers must be able to understand strengths and weaknesses of their students, said Debbie Young, who is one of this year’s runner up for the Arizona Teacher of the Year award.
Quality teachers teach to the students level and not just to the standard, she said.
The art of teaching took a hit when No Child Left Behind was introduced in 2001, Young said.
NCLB forced teachers to focus on testing and to follow doctrine, she said.
Teachers need to “start looking more at individual children,” she added.