It’s a word I have heard used over and over to describe an accomplished teacher.
I have listened as parents, students, colleagues and administrators share information about skilled and compassionate educators that teach in their communities, but they often end by saying, “And of course they won’t tell you any of this, because they are extremely humble.”
As a profession, I have found that teachers are humble creatures. I can’t explain it. The skill set needed to succeed as an educator these days is complex and ever-changing.
Teachers are consistently improving their practice through online courses, professional reading, digital-colleague connections, educational conferences and advanced degrees. Studies show that a teacher makes up to 1,500 educational decisions every single day. They serve the complex needs of 20 to 25 individual students at a time, and conduct a daily symphony of compassion, rigor, standards and engaging lessons.
In the month of November, 16 remarkable teachers were honored as the County Teachers of the Year for 2015. Achieving this recognition was no easy road. More than 300 nominations were received last winter, and by the end of the process the teachers who can now add “2015 County Teacher of the Year” to their professional title had reflected on their teaching and pushed open the window on their classroom practice through various approaches including essays, videos, oral presentations, site visits and interview panels.
These educators now serve their county and their state as ambassadors for education and have developed a platform around the issues of poverty and its impact on student learning.
It is also the time of year that many educators across the state will learn that they have achieved the most widely respected certification in education, National Board Certification. The rigorous, voluntary process of becoming an NBCT is one in which teachers choose to engage for hundreds of hours outside of their already full schedule. It challenges these educators to examine their practice and their content knowledge and reflect upon how it impacts student learning within a comprehensive set of national standards.
As the only “peer review” process of its kind for teachers, National Board Certification is a pathway that often leads to teacher leadership and innovation. Its proven impact on teaching and learning has spurred graduate programs in teacher leadership, such as the one at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts, to incorporate National Board Certification as a key component of its program, recognizing that in education, accomplished teaching is a prerequisite to accomplished leading.
As this season of achievement is upon us, congratulations to our many fine educators in Maine. You have persevered to complete the work while deeply reflecting on and refining your practice. Please don’t shy away from your accomplishments. Your colleagues are proud of you for continuing your professional development through these avenues.
The parents and community members in the cities and towns you serve are grateful for the new energy and leadership you bring to your building each day. Every time you embark on life-long learning you do it for yourself, you do it for your school, and most importantly you do it for your students.
There is no more important lesson for our students than modeling the idea that learning is a continuous process, and that setting a goal and reaching that goal is something to celebrate. When it comes to your professional credentials, it’s time to put humble away and own your accomplishments. Be proud!
Karen MacDonald is a sixth and seventh grade language arts teacher at King Middle School in Portland and is the 2014 Teacher of the Year.