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A Teacher Is...
By Joey Lee, 2014 NH Teacher of the Year

A teacher is a leader. A teacher is the medium between student and curriculum, contemplation and enduring understanding, between past personal experiences and existence in our globalized interconnected world. A teacher is one who recognizes the unique characteristics of each student and works with them to hone their strengths and overcome their challenges. A teacher motivates through enriched individualized curriculum, personalized pedagogy, and student centered inquiry building mutually respectful and honest relationships relying on mutual effort of teacher and student. A teacher is a leader in the classroom, department, and school. A teacher develops relations with each one of the students, holding standards high, and encouraging students to find success. A teacher desires to produce global citizens ensuring that each one of the students departs the classroom experience enlightened, confident, and inspired.

Teaching is intrinsically rewarding. Teachers throughout the world could speak to the feeling of satisfaction when a student connects to what is being taught. This feeling has passed the test of time, and will continue to influence youth to pursue such a career in teaching. However, today’s expectations of a teacher are different. This has occurred because the student is different. Their social and academic distractions, access to unlimited information, and teacher expectations have increased. We must evolve our profession to match our changing student and society.

Youth are growing up in an unprecedented interconnected world where access to information is easy and quick. It is easy to say that a student’s academic failure is their fault as they didn’t complete various assignments, performed poorly on summative assessments, or put forth sub-par effort in classroom activities. It is much more challenging for a teacher to explore why this disconnect occurred. Teachers must reassess what is being taught and determine what their essential knowledge is, how it connects to the student’s lifelong learning, and how it can be fairly assessed. We must ask ourselves what is our long term, big picture, enduring understanding that we wish the student to grasp, and what essential knowledge must they define, explore, and analyze to do so. In order to best provide each student with an opportunity at success, we as teachers must reach each student in their environment allowing freedom of expression personalized to their strengths while holding them responsible to our expectations. Differentiated Instruction meets these demands, but puts increased responsibility to each student’s academic success in the hands of educators. We must welcome this challenge. We must engage with modern technology to teach in the student’s form of communication meeting the many demands of what it means to be a teacher in the 21st Century.

So much of teaching occurs outside of the classroom, not in the presence of students but instead with colleagues. Teachers must ask deep questions about what we are here for, why we are teaching this curriculum, and how we are measuring if each and every student has truly understood what they have set as the goal for the lesson of the day, quarter, or semester. Teachers have to examine what it means to understand and recognize that true enduring understanding will not look the same for each student. In support of the profession, teachers must share knowledge and experience with fellow department members, school wide colleagues, and statewide teachers through collaborative work, workshop leadership, and continued familiarity with emerging pedagogy and methodology. Teachers must do this as to truly educate today’s student irrelevant of socioeconomic standing, prior academic record, or motivation to find success.

We as teachers must recognize the drastic changes to our students, our profession, and our society. We must continue to develop as professional educators as our student’s success is influenced by our ability to evolve to our changing student and society. We must harness advances in technology in our classrooms, welcome and trial new approaches to pedagogy, and respond to social, emotional, and intellectual differences in students today.

New Hampshire Department of Education
101 Pleasant Street | Concord, NH | 03301-3494
Telephone: (603) 271-3494 | TDD Access: Relay NH 711