Sunday, October 27, 2013

Inspirational and Committed Teachers

I had the pleasure of attending yesterday's Hawaii State Teacher of the Year ceremony, and I was impressed with the honorees!  There were seven nominees, one from each district.  Hale Kula teacher, Teresa Cramer, was the Central District nominee, and she is truly deserving of this honor.

These teachers have taught between 5 and 12 years at their schools.  They are still relatively young educators, but their passion, commitment, and leadership are already evident in the way they have positively impacted their students and the school community.  Sustainable gardens, AVID, science fairs and science projects, relevancy and project-based learning, partnering with the community, a hula halau -- these are some examples of how these teachers have engaged their students and inspired them to strive high.

Recently, Yong Zhao was in Hawaii for a Schools of the Future conference, and an interview with him was printed in the local newspaper.  He speaks out against the standardization of schools and advocates for schools "to capitalize on a technological era that allows students to deeply explore subjects they care about and share their ideas with the world."  That is what Mrs. Cramer does at Hale Kula and what the other District Teachers of the Year are doing at their schools.  I find it somewhat ironic that while there appears to be a move towards standardization with implementation of the Common Core State Standards, adopting a common curriculum for language arts, and assessments which will compare our students with others around our country, our District Teachers of the Year are focusing on the process of learning rather than just content and skills.

As a school leader, I believe that one of my most important responsibilities is to support innovation in education.  We need to keep the spark alive in teachers because they are the ones who will ignite the spark in their students.  Our teachers are encouraged to think out-of-the-box as they address the unique needs of our students and our school community.  Many of our successful initiatives at Hale Kula such as co-teaching classrooms, project-based learning, blended learning, and service clubs were initially proposed by teachers based on the needs of our students. Innovation is valued, and new leaders emerge when their successes are recognized and validated.

 Congratulations to the State and District Teachers of the Year!

Matthew Lawrence from Waikiki Elementary is the Hawaii State Teacher of the Year for 2014.  He is at the far left.  The District Teachers of the Year are shown with  Superintendent Matayoshi and Governor Abercrombie. 

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