Viewpoint: Exemplary teachers model for colleagues as well as their students
First, we’ll agree that many outstanding teachers never get the recognition they deserve.
That said, we should still celebrate the Rodel Foundation’s exemplary teacher awards in Flagstaff last month.
Four teachers — Jill Allan, Pam White-Hanson, Laurie Jeffers and Kathy Fox — were named this year’s finalists, with the first two declared the winners (but even Rodel concedes it was very hard to tell the four apart).
But how does Rodel tell the outstanding teachers from the average ones?
As Hillary Davis has reported, Flagstaff’s four Rodel finalists set consistently high goals for their students, then go the extra mile to help them meet them. They walk them through their mistakes but don’t let them off the hook. They model good social interactions and point them in the direction of others like them.
As for measuring success, Rodel looks not only to students meeting higher-than-average achievement levels but exceptional improvement, too. It looks at test scores of students entering a class at the beginning of the year and the same scores a year later.
Over time with veteran teachers, there are unmistakable trends. Some seem to have all the discipline problems, while others don’t. Some struggle to get impoverished students even to a basic mastery level; others find ways to far exceed the minimum.
But why does Rodel go through the exercise? There are three basic reasons.
The first is to give long overdue recognition to those teachers who deserve it, despite a resistance within the profession toward merit raises.
The second is to provide a road map for others to follow, especially in schools where disadvantaged children pose more challenges in the classroom.
And third, Rodel sees exemplary teachers as resources for student teachers. If education students have a choice of classroom placements, why not learn from the best?
The four finalists this year teach at MEMS, Puente de Hozho, South Beaver and Kinsey, schools where more students than average come and go during the year and whose parents don’t all have college educations or speak English as their native tongue.
That doesn’t matter to these teachers — they set the same high standards as for children from privileged backgrounds. Rodel chooses their schools only because it recognizes the higher hurdles these teachers face, making their accomplishments all that more significant.
The two winners will each receive $10,000 savings bonds and be asked to mentor a different student teacher from NAU each semester for three years. Those young teachers will then be assigned to high-needs schools throughout Arizona, thus planting seeds of excellence that Rodel hopes will grow through the years.
With public education in Arizona strapped for resources at all levels, it is encouraging to see a private foundation like Rodel not only focused on success but also providing the tools to achieve it. We wish the foundation and all its exemplary teachers many more successful years.
Rodel Exemplary Teachers in Coconino County
Jill Allan, Mount Elden Middle
Pam White-Hanson, Puente de Hozho Elementary
*Laurie Jeffers, South Beaver Elementary
*Kathy Fox, Kinsey Elementary
Patricia Moreno, South Beaver Elementary
Stacey Wirth, Thomas Elementary
*Debbie Barnard, Kinsey Elementary
*Barbara Campbell, Christensen Elementary
Kamalene Nelson, Thomas Elementary
Sheryl Wells, Killip Elementary
*Mike Laird, Christensen Elementary
*Patricia Moreno, South Beaver Elementary