Archive for the ‘Teacher Initiative’ Category

Rodel Improves Arizona Education

June 1st, 2005

By Dr. Carol Peck. President and CEO, The Rodel Charitable Foundation of Arizona

Today, a publication of Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce

Some say Arizona’s education system can’t be fixed. Others don’t see the need.

Arizona ranks 49th in the nation in funding for programs and operations, and according to the National Assessment of Education Progress, only a quarter of our elementary and middle school students read at grade level. This problem is concentrated in economically disadvantaged communities and places where students are just learning English.

The future of our nation depends on having an educated population. The Rodel Foundation of Arizona’s bold vision is to improve Arizona’s education system so that it is widely recognized as one of the best in the country by 2020. Some might find this too ambitious, but the Rodel team is optimistic.

Local and state partnerships make the Rodel vision a reality by exchanging ideas and resources, enriching policy dialogues and creating initiatives that directly affect classrooms. Partners include APS, SRP, Bank One, Banner Health and Legacy Foundation.

Rodel’s first initiative, MAC-Ro, is a math program designed for third and fourth grade students in high-poverty areas. Students are provided monthly math workbooks to do at home with a parent or

guardian. Incentives are earned when fully completed workbooks are returned. The program has been so successful that it has expanded to 55 schools in five Arizona counties, reaching over 8,000 students. Researchers at the University of Arizona found significant math achievement gains due to this program.

The Rodel Exemplary Teacher Initiative is our second focus area. This initiative was launched to help populate schools in disadvantaged areas with talented teachers. Rodel identifies teachers with a proven track record of increasing achievement in high-poverty schools, and then pairs these Rodel Exemplary Teachers with the most promising student teachers. In only 10 years, over 1,000 new teachers – mentored and trained by Rodel Exemplary Teachers – will be guided to careers in high-poverty schools where they’ll have the potential to reach over one million students.

Rodel commissioned Lead with Five, a major report developed by business, community and education leaders. Their mission was to identify research-based school reforms proven to make a significant difference in student achievement. This report, widely circulated and endorsed by The Arizona Republic and East Valley Tribune, is already stimulating policy dialogue by outlining options for wise investments in education.

Rodel has the vision – and is proving it has the means – to truly make a difference for Arizona’s children. For more information, call (480) 367-2920 or visit www.rodelfoundationaz.org.

Teachers are key to better public schools

April 14th, 2005

BY DR. CAROL PECK AND TOM HORNE

THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC

 

 

Editor’s note: This is the second of five monthly columns that explores a key rec- ommendation of Lead with Five: Five In- vestments to Improve Education in Ari- zona, a report commissioned by the Rodel Charitable Foundation of Arizona, with support from Greater Phoenix Leadership.

Next to the role of an involved parent, nothing is more important to student achievement than a skillful and enthusiastic teacher who maintains high expectations for every student.

Lead with Five states that without highly skilled, well-prepared teachers, most investments in education reform have little chance of making a significant difference. Ensuring we have good teachers involves three key components:

nAttracting quality teachers. Arizona needs to train more teachers for where they are most critically needed: in rural and high-poverty urban areas, and in subject areas such as mathematics, science and technology, where there are also significant shortages of qualified candidates.

Further, many Arizona teachers leave the profession, partly due to insufficient preparation for success in challenging areas. About one-third of the teachers in high-poverty areas leave after the first year, many because they lack the skills to be successful.

Lead with Five recom- mends teacher preparation and recruiting be given continued attention to ensure there are enough teachers entering and staying in the schools.

The Rodel Exemplary Teacher program honors and recognizes the very best teachers in high-poverty schools in an effort to make teaching at these schools an attractive and rewarding career option.

Through partnerships with teacher prep-aration colleges, Rodel Exemplary Teachers are training the next generation of teachers by mentoring the most promising student teachers.

The current 27 Rodel Exemplary Teachers will mentor 162 student teachers who will each receive a $10,000 savings bond after successfully teaching for three years in high-poverty areas.

nProfessional development. Professional development is key to developing and retaining masterful teachers. Unfortunately, typical professional development often involves little or no follow-through coaching, usually resulting in minimal impact on instruction and student performance.

Quality professional development must be school-based, job-embedded and focused on the curriculum. Teachers must have oppor-tunities to immediately apply their newly learned techniques in their classrooms. They need to be able to see how the training directly relates to improving performance of students.

Although principals are critical, the reality is their professional development services are often spread thin. The evidence of what works calls for school-based instructional facilitators at each school to provide ongoing coaching and mentoring that is critical for teachers to improve.

Many schools release children early on a regular basis to allow time to train teachers, but what they gain in training time they may be losing in classroom instruction. Lead with Five recommends summer institutes for teachers as the best venue for intensive training.

One exemplary professional development opportunity is National Board Certification for Teachers.

In this rigorous process, teachers learn and demonstrate that they measure up to national teaching standards as evidenced by student work samples, videotape of teacher-student discourse, written narrative and reflection on classroom practices, and documented evidence.

Teachers who attain National Board Cer- tification are not only highly qualified, they are accomplished. Arizona currently has 249 National Board certified teachers.

Performance pay. A task force on tea-cher compensation concluded that Arizona must raise teacher salaries in order to compete.

Additionally, individual teachers and teacher teams who are more effective in producing student-learning gains in their classrooms should be paid more.

Proposition 301 already requires com- pensation to recognize and reward teacher performance. Successful plans from Arizona districts should guide future development of performance-based salary structures.

Recruiting, training and recognizing high-performing teachers should top our state’s agenda for the continued improvement of our public schools, including charters.

Carol Peck is president and CEO of Rodel Charitable Foundation of Arizona. Tom Horne is state superintendent of public instruction. To read the complete Lead with Five report, go online towww.rodelfoundationaz.org.

The hardest job they will ever love

December 8th, 2004

The Arizona Republic

RODEL FINALISTS

Teachers’ advice is to read, read, read to your kids

 

Over the past 12 days, The Arizona Republic has profiled 12 exemplary teachers named in the 2005 Rodel Teacher Initiative. The program gives $10,000 savings bonds to teachers in low-income schools who will each mentor six outstanding student teachers.

Rodel selected 18 teachers from schools whose classes scored well on achievement tests for three consecutive years. They also asked principals to identify teachers who they would like to “clone.” Salt River Project teamed up with Rodel this year, sponsoring two of the teachers’ awards.
Six teachers will receive $1,000 each as finalists. They are profiled below:

Monica Carrera-Wilburn

School: Adams Elementary School.

District: Mesa Public Schools.

Grade: Multi-age classroom grades first through third.

Years in teaching: 11 years.

How parents can help: Read to your child from the moment of birth. Read to your child every night. Find out who your children’s friends are and get to know their teacher.

Advice for fellow teachers: Build some genuine friendships with your colleagues. That’s how you get your energy. Read, read, read professional books. Get out there and attend conferences.

Why she loves teaching: What excites her about teaching: I tell my kids, “I have the best job in the world. I get to play with kids all day.”

What her principal said: “One of the things I appreciate most about Monica is her willingness to be a learner as well as a teacher,” said Devon Isherwood. “She is always striving to do it better. She doesn’t believe you ever arrive or become as good as you can be as a teacher.”

Marsha Fetzer

School: Emerson Elementary School.

District: Mesa Public Schools.

Grade: Second.

Years in teaching: 26.

On motivating students: I work with a child to make them feel valued, trusted, important, intelligent. If you value them, you’ll get them to open up.

How parents can help: Spend time with them. Trust and believe in them. Be a good role model.

Advice for fellow teachers: Get to know the individual child.

Why she loves teaching: I love the reaction I get from children when they learn and progress. Young children are really into the world around them, and that’s motivating for me.

On raising the bar for students: Set high expectations and use classroom time effectively.

Amy Fishbaugh

School: Carol G. Peck Elementary School.

District: Alhambra Elementary District.

Grade: Second.

Years in teaching: 11.

On motivating students: High expectations, personal touch, discussion.

How parents can help: Read aloud at home. Read, read, read.

Advice for fellow teachers: Believe in the kids and in yourself.

Why she loves teaching: Like the Peace Corps, it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love.

On raising the bar for students: I don’t talk down to them. I’m nurturing but I don’t coddle. I expect them to be there every day and to participate.

What her principal said: “Every interaction that Amy has – with students, colleagues and parents – comes from what is good for the kids and how we can help them be successful,” said Betsy Hargrove. “It’s her love of the children and her passion for their education.”

Leah Kelly

School: Cordova Middle School.

District: Alhambra Elementary District.

Grade: Fifth.

Years in teaching: Five.

On motivating students: She strives to make the classroom a team through hands on projects, such as a two-hour math problem.

How parents can help: Spend time reading with their children or at least going over homework.

Advice for fellow teachers: Don’t take emotional stresses of work home with you. If you do, you won’t be fully prepared for the next day.

Why she loves teaching: She comes from a family of teachers and loves being with the kids, helping them learn in a safe environment.

On raising the bar for students: Establish classroom rules and be enthusiastic about the work.

Jill O’Keefe

School: Orangedale Elementary School.

District: Balsz Elementary District.

Grade: Fourth.

Years in teaching: 18.

On motivating students: Present fun opportunities for learning and strive to present good curriculum.

How parents can help: Spend time with your children. Trust and believe in them. Be a good role model.

Advice for fellow teachers: Keep in mind that students are “real” people who should be respected.

Why she loves teaching: For those moments when a students learns something.

On raising the bar for students: Be involved.

Steve Schiro

School: Redbird Elementary School.

District: Mesa Public Schools.

Grade: Fourth-fifth-grade loop.

Years in teaching: 8.

On motivating students: Tries to teach to the strengths of individual students, hopefully tap into something exciting for them. Once you get past initial needs, it’s just making them feel some kind of success.

How parents can help: Be involved. As a parent I give that advice and as a teacher I give that advice.

Advice for fellow teachers: Have a philosophy of teaching you’re confident with and stick with it. Don’t change with every trend that comes along.

Why he loves teaching: It’s always different, and always a challenge.

On raising the bar for students: Expect what they’re capable of doing, and the challenge is identifying what that is.
Reporters Doug Carroll, Anne Ryman, Cory Schouten and Louie Villalobos contributed to this article.

Teacher’s high expectations encourage achievement

December 6th, 2004

By Doug Carroll

The Arizona Republic

Editor’s note: The Arizona Republic is profiling the 12 winners of the 2005 Rodel Teacher Initiative. The program gives $10,000 savings bonds to teachers in low-income schools who each will mentor six outstanding student teachers.

It is easier to keep up than to catch up, Mary Cordova often tells her students and their parents.

And she speaks from personal experience.

Cordova, a first-grade teacher at Griffith Elementary School in the Balsz School District in Phoenix, got sidetracked after graduating from high school in St. Louis and didn’t go directly to college. Neither of her parents had finished high school, and there was no sense of urgency to go beyond.

When she did, however, there was no stopping her.

“I decided I would get my degree, no matter what it took,” Cordova said.

While earning a bachelor’s degree in business at Arizona State University, she worked as a paraprofessional in the Osborn School District and ultimately decided to go for a master’s degree in education.

Now in her 17th year, she has been teaching ever since.

“I loved working with the students who were learning English,” Cordova says of her work in Osborn. Her Spanish had been honed by living in South America for three years.

She has been named one of 12 exemplary teachers in the 2005 Rodel Teacher Initiative, a program that rewards teachers who work in the Valley’s poorest schools.

Rodel selected teachers whose classes scored well on achievement tests for three consecutive years. They also were recommended by their principals. Cordova’s award is being paid by Salt River Project, a partner with Rodel in the teacher initiative.

The importance of parental involvement in a child’s education is an aspect she hammers constantly.

“Attendance is paramount,” Cordova said she tells parents. “If (a student misses) even a week for a family trip, it really can take a toll. In the first grade, you’re doing reading and math, the things that are the building blocks.”

Cordova says many parents sincerely want to help their children but are unsure how.

“Even if it’s just taking them to the library, that helps,” she said. “If (children) can read in Spanish, then they’ll read in English. And taking the time to converse with them develops language skills.”

On motivating students: Cordova has a motto of “we must, we can, we will.” She emphasizes individual and team successes.

How parents can help: ”Explain what you expect. Check for homework and establish a studying regimen.”

Advice for fellow teachers: ”Be organized and prioritize. Get the class up and moving when needed.”

On raising the bar for her students: ”I tell them what I expect.”

Why she loves teaching: ”It’s a loving, caring community with a goal and a purpose.”

What her principal said: ”Mary has been such an asset in reaching out to families,” Griffith Principal Mary Ruddy said. “She’s very consistent with kids. She sets the expectations high but is willing to put in the extra time to help them get there.”

Reach the reporter at doug.carroll@arizonarepublic.com.

Job’s fulfillment brought him back

December 5th, 2004

By Mel Melendez

The Arizona Republic

Editor’s note: The Arizona Republic is profiling the 12 winners of the 2005 Rodel Teacher Initiative. The program gives $10,000 savings bonds to teachers in low-income schools who will each mentor six outstanding student teachers.

In 1982, Damon Timm abandoned the teaching profession, where he earned $16,000 annually.

Seven years later, he earned five times that salary selling insurance. But Timm’s heart wasn’t in it.

“I felt such a void in my life because I really missed the kids,” said Timm, a sixth-grade teacher at Ida Redbird Elementary School in Mesa. “You realize that money isn’t everything.”
Those who know Timm say they can’t imagine him doing anything else. But Timm, whose wife, Cindy, also teaches sixth grade at Redbird, said teaching wasn’t “on his radar” before he earned an associate’s degree in graphic design.

“I enjoyed helping other graphic arts students, and figured I’d give education a shot,” said the 52-year-old, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from Arizona State University. “Not exactly an epiphany,” he joked.

Epiphany or not, today, the 21-year teaching veteran is lauded as one of the top educators in Arizona. He has been named one of 12 exemplary teachers in the 2005 Rodel Teacher Initiative, a program that rewards teachers who work in the Valley’s poorest schools. Rodel selected teachers whose classes scored well on achievement tests for three consecutive years. They also were recommended by their principals.

“That’s why this recognition is perfect for him,” said Nick Parker, principal of the 690-student school. “He doesn’t let excuses like poverty levels, language barriers or other socio-economic factors get in the way of his students’ learning.”

Timm said he chose elementary education because teaching at the secondary level seemed limiting.

“I’d be bored if I had to teach one subject all day long,” said Timm, who’s known for his humorous in-class delivery. “The sixth-grade curriculum is challenging, and the kids are old enough to get my jokes.”

Treating students with respect, helping them build confidence in their abilities, and relating to their interests are key if the pre-pubescent pupils are to succeed, he added.

“You can’t talk down to them,” he said, “and if you’re a sixth-grade teacher and you don’t know who (R&B singer) Usher is, then you’re in the wrong business.”

At the end of the day, a teacher’s success is measured by students’ achievements, Timm said.

“Nobody gets into teaching for the money,” he said. “You do it to make a difference in a kid’s life. That’s how you count the riches. By the number of lives you touch.”

On motivating students: ”Instilling in them that there are no limits . . . that they can achieve anything they want, if they set their minds to it.”

How parents can help: ”Be active in your child’s education. At the very least, talk to kids about their school day.”

Advice for fellow teachers: ”Teach to the whole child. Kids have educational, emotional, social and physical needs, which impact the learning process. So it’s really important to look at them as a whole person.”

Why he loves teaching: ”I enjoy the kids, and it’s always different. You never know what the day is going to bring.”

On raising the bar for his students: ”By working with them to set goals, and encouraging and assisting them to help them meet those goals.”

What his principal said: ”I’m not surprised that he’s been nominated for this because he’s the best teacher I’ve ever seen in my 14 years in education,” Nick Parker said. “He truly cares about his students and uses his great sense of humor to make learning fun. That’s not always easy, especially at the sixth-grade level.”

Leading a classroom was family’s dream for teacher

December 3rd, 2004

By Pat Kossan

The Arizona Republic

Editor’s note: The Arizona Republic is profiling the 12 winners of the 2005 Rodel Teacher Initiative. The program gives $10,000 savings bonds to teachers in low-income schools who will each mentor six outstanding student teachers.

On her first day of first grade in Mesa, Isabel Chanley didn’t know a word of English. Her parents were poor immigrants from Mexico, where she was born the eldest of eight children.

Chanley’s parents gave her few options but to succeed. To them, that meant not only learning English, it meant going to college and becoming a teacher.

“To my parents, it was one of the greatest things I could be,” Chanley said. “Being a teacher was a show of success.”
Chanley, 49, has been comfortable in a classroom since her first day as a teacher. After two children of her own, seven grandchildren and three decades of teaching, she still gets a kick out of her students: what they say, how they think and learn, and imagining what they may become. She is bilingual and teaches second-graders who are just learning English at Eisenhower Elementary in Mesa.

“They keep you smiling; they make you laugh,” Chanley said. They also come back to see her, as doctors, teachers and rap singers; former students recalling defining life moments in her classroom that Chanley can no longer remember. It doesn’t matter. She treasures each one.

She has been named one of 12 exemplary teachers in the 2005 Rodel Teacher Initiative, a program that rewards teachers who work in the Valley’s poorest schools. Rodel selected teachers whose classes scored well on achievement tests for three consecutive years. They also were recommended by their principals. Chanley’s award is being paid for by Salt River Project, a partner with Rodel in the Teacher Initiative.

There is little time, anymore, for learning to socialize, to role-play about how to handle a bully or talk to an adult. Now, it’s all about ensuring that her students are absorbing Arizona’s learning standards and living up to state and federal testing expectations.

“I don’t remember the state and federal government getting so involved in what we do,” she said. “But I understand it. We don’t want anyone to fall through the cracks,” she said, adding that she could “really use 45 more minutes in the day, but the kids would be wiped out. They are so on task, it’s input all the time.”

On motivating students: ”Praise. Just telling them how wonderful they are and how smart they are to get something. I talk to each one sometime during the week.”

How parents can help: ”Always stay involved. Kids know there is a three-way connection between the student, the parents, and me. Kids see how important education is if they see their parents are involved.”

On raising the bar for her students: ”You begin by knowing where your students are. Once you know that, you teach to the next skill. You have to measure and hold them accountable.”

Advice for fellow teachers: ”Don’t give up on your students. Don’t give up on the progress they may or may not be making. Enjoy what you do. It’s your attitude when you walk in the door every day that makes the difference. Kids know if you want to be there.”

What her principal said: Principal Pat Estes called Chanley one of her top teachers with multiple talents for teaching, getting along with colleagues, and leading. “She’s the leader within her grade, at the school level and participates in district committees as well,” Estes said.

Educator’s attitude creates excitement

December 3rd, 2004

By Anne Ryman

The Arizona Republic

Editor’s note: The Arizona Republic is profiling the 12 winners of the 2005 Rodel Teacher Initiative. The program gives $10,000 savings bonds to teachers in low-income schools who will each mentor six outstanding student teachers.

Susan Selzo is one of those lucky people who always knew what she wanted to do with her life.

Her favorite fourth-grade teacher only reinforced those feelings.

“I remember we did fun projects and made things, and I remember looking at her and thinking, ‘I want to be just like her.’”

Selzo has spent her career teaching in schools with diverse student enrollments, first in the Dysart Unified School District in the West Valley and later in the Balzs School District in east Phoenix.

She has worked for the same principal, Rick Stephen, for most of her 17-year career. In fact, when Stephen took a job as principal at Orangedale Elementary in Balzs, Selzo followed a few years later even though the move meant less money.

Stephen was thrilled.

“She just has a way about her that creates a special relationship between teacher and student,” he said. “And that relationship causes students to want to work harder and achieve at a higher level.”

She was chosen as one of 12 exemplary teachers in the 2005 Rodel Teacher Initiative because her classes scored well on achievement tests for three consecutive years. The winners also were recommended by their principals.

One challenge facing Orangedale, 5048 E. Oak St., is the neighborhood has a large number of apartments and about 40 percent of the students come and go during the school year. Selzo matches up each new child in her fourth-grade class with a buddy to help them adjust.

She strives to make the day fun.

“If you’re excited about what you’re doing, it gets them excited,” she said.

Her goal is to create a class “family” where the children know each other and feel safe and comfortable. She celebrates her students’ achievements, taking pride when a child moves up a reading level or gets a perfect score on a test.

“Respect is my big thing,” she said. “I try to model that for the kids. I try to let them see me as a person too so we can laugh. I believe every child has the ability to learn and is special. Sometimes you just have to find out what their way of learning is.”

How parents can help: ”Get involved in your child’s education by helping them with their homework, staying in communication with the teacher and, most important, listening to your child read.”

Why she loves teaching: ”I like it when kids realize they can do something or something clicks in their heads and they get it. Or when you’re teaching something and they get excited.”

Advice for fellow teachers: ”Try to teach to the whole child. Kids have emotional and social and educational and physical needs. It’s really important to look at them as a whole person.”

What Principal Rick Stephen said: ”She is a very special teacher in the way she handles children. She is just so caring, so sincere and so dedicated to her students. That type of attitude creates a special kind of classroom.”

Reach the reporter at anne.ryman@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-6881

Pushing students delivers rewards

December 2nd, 2004

By Ty Young

The Arizona Republic

Editor’s note: The Arizona Republic is profiling the 12 winners of the 2005 Rodel Teacher Initiative. The program gives $10,000 savings bonds to teachers in low-income schools who will each mentor six outstanding student teachers.

The students in Anette DeAnda’s first-grade class have a short routine once the morning bell rings. After they say the Pledge of Allegiance and take their moment of silence, their teacher asks them why they will succeed in life.

“Because we are the best,” they say in unison. “We will become someone special.”

It’s more than a simple routine, however. It is an indication of DeAnda’s high expectations, which she and her students share. Exemplifying her mother, a 30-year teaching veteran in Mexico, DeAnda learned at an early age that children need challenges and praise for them to be successful.

“They know that they’re going to work hard, but they also know that they’re going to have fun,” she said.

DeAnda has been named one of 12 exemplary teachers in the 2005 Rodel Teacher Initiative, a program that rewards teachers who work in the Valley’s poorest schools.

DeAnda, 25, did her student teaching at Eisenhower Elementary School in Mesa, then worked as a long-term substitute before being hired full time. Growing up in Yuma and spending school holidays in her mother’s classroom in Mexico helped her realize that she wanted to help the neediest students.

But instead of coddling her students, DeAnda pushes them to learn to read and write. A number of her students are still learning English, which the bilingual teacher said offers even more of a challenge.

“I can’t speak Spanish to them, so it is important that I don’t let them become confused,” she said. “I learned to speak English when I was 4 and 5, and I remember being very frustrated.”

On motivating students: ”I believe in them as much as they believe in me,” she said. “The more they think that I believe in them, the more they believe in themselves.”

How parents can help: ”They have to be proper role models. If children don’t have a good example at home, they’ll have a very difficult time.”

What her principal says: Eisenhower Principal Patricia Estes said DeAnda has brought an important element into the classroom, inspiring other teachers to work just as hard. “You look for a teacher with personal academic skills and the ability to blend in with the team,” she said. “She has done this, and her hard work has been an inspiration for all of us.”

Educator ‘the best’ for her students

December 1st, 2004

By Karina Bland

The Arizona Republic

Editor’s note: The Arizona Republic is profiling the 12 winners of the 2005 Rodel Teacher Initiative. The program gives $10,000 savings bonds to teachers in low-income schools who will each mentor six outstanding student teachers.

 

Since she was a little girl, Kelli Mitchell wanted to be a teacher. She and her friends played “school” after school with extra worksheets that her mother brought home from her job as a classroom aide.

Now Mitchell teaches in the same school district where she grew up, though it’s different now than when she was a child. She did her student teaching in the Alhambra District in Phoenix, too, while attending Arizona State University West.

“I knew I wanted to be here,” Mitchell said.

The children are great, she said, very eager to please. “They just need a strong role model.”

Enthusiastic about learning and confident that her students can do anything they put their mind to, Mitchell is a likely role model.

She has been named one of 12 exemplary teachers in the 2005 Rodel Teacher Initiative, a program that rewards teachers who work in the Valley’s poorest schools. Rodel selected teachers whose classes scored well on achievement tests for three consecutive years. They also were recommended by their principals.

The 22 kids in her first-grade class like school so much that a boy who was so sick that he was in the hospital cried because he was missing school.

“You’re the best teacher,” the children tell her. Mitchell says, “It’s really great to hear.”

At Carol G. Peck School, children are grouped by reading ability, not age. So Mitchell taught a third-grader who had struggled with reading since kindergarten and saw him improve dramatically.

On motivating students: An example, she reads stories about scarecrows now that it’s fall and lets the children make their own out of construction paper. Then, they write below it, describing what it looks like or what it would be like to be a scarecrow: “They’re so excited, they can’t get their paper fast enough.”

How parents can help: ”The most important thing is to read to your children every single day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.”

Advice for fellow teachers: ”You have to have high expectations for every one of your students.”

Why she loves teaching: The excitement of that magic moment when a child figures out a concept, reads a new word, or tries something for the first time.

On raising the bar for her students: ”That they can do anything they set their minds to,” she said.

What her principal said: Mitchell’s enthusiasm for teaching is contagious, Principal Elizabeth Hargrove said. “Her positive attitude and strong teaching strategies promote excellent learning opportunities for her students.”

Honoring teachers

November 29th, 2004

EDITORIAL

ARIZONA DAILY STAR

Remember the bumper sticker “If you can read this, thank a teacher”? The sentiment was a bit defensive, but still an appropriate attempt to elevate the status of the profession.

We remembered that bumper sticker last week while reading the series by Star education reporter Sarah Garrecht Gassen about teachers honored for excelling in Pima County schools that have a high rate of poverty among their students.

These were no fleeting honors. The five were honored through the Rodel Charitable Foundation of Arizona Exemplary Teaching Initiative – and they come with a grant of $10,000 each.

Still, money and praise are only tools toward a greater goal – creating teachers who embrace the challenge of excellence in schools with high numbers of low-income students.

The award stipulates that for three years the recipients must work with student teachers – a different one each semester. The five recipients are Andrea Aamodt of Homer Davis Elementary School, McClair Brown of Blenman Elementary School, Sam Cooper of Cragin Elementary School and Megan Fester and Iona Lee, both of Esperanza Elementary School. Michael Marbut of Laguna Elementary School and Nancy Tomlinson of Cragin Elementary School were finalists for the award.

The student teachers, like their new mentors, are also carefully chosen. They, too, will get $10,000. And they must agree to work for the next three years in a school with high rates of poverty.

Among teaching awards, this one stands out. It not only honors hard-working, dedicated teachers, but it attempts to alleviate some of the toughest problems facing public education. In America today, poverty goes hand-in-hand with underachievement. And it is no secret that good teachers are concentrated in wealthy areas where the instruction is easier and more financially rewarding.

One telling statistic from the series: The Tucson area has 65 public and charter schools where at least 70 percent of students qualify for reduced or free federal lunches. Teachers from these schools were eligible for the Rodel initiative.

Yet these remarkable teachers have shown they can produce remarkable results. Their students posted achievement rated in the top 5 percent when compared to similar schools. The teachers also were subjected to interviews and classroom observations by a group of people from the Rodel foundation and the University of Arizona’s College of Education.

Like Rodel, we’re happy to see good teachers in low-income areas recognized and rewarded. We hope that through this program, excellent teaching practices will be passed on to new teachers for generations to come – and that success in teaching poor children will be recognized on bumper stickers and beyond.