According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of “teach” is “to cause someone to learn or understand something by example or experience.” Obviously, the main goal of a teacher is to teach. However, a truly impactful teacher does more than just lead by example or experience: They also inspire and motivate students in whatever subject it is that they teach.
Teachers play the crucial role in our society of educating future generations. Unfortunately, teachers are often overlooked by members of society. The Teacher of the Year Award recognizes outstanding teachers in WCPSS schools while also inspiring other teachers to continue to implement new learning styles in their own classrooms.
Mrs. Yost, math teacher, was the most recent recipient of Leesville’s Teacher of the Year Award. “Leesville Road High School is such a prestigious school. There are so many faculty members that I respect and look up to and for them to choose to recognize me is such an honor,” said Yost via email upon receiving this recognition.
A major component of Yost’s teaching style– as well as many others at Leesville — is teaching students the “why” in math. “A lot of times, students think that math is just a bunch of rules, but there is meaning behind all the mathematical ‘rules’. If students can understand that, then they will have a deeper understanding of the concepts and are more likely to remember them and apply them correctly,” wrote Yost.
However, being Teacher of the Year is not only an honor; it is also a call to continue improving as a teacher.
Dr. Mash, Latin teacher and past recipient of the Teacher of the Year Award, said, “[As Teacher of the Year], you are representing your colleagues; it’s a responsibility not to be taken lightly, because there are so many fabulous teachers that we work with every single day. It’s a responsibility to uphold the excellent work that your colleagues do every day.”
Teachers of all different subjects share one quality: a passion for their subject. Señor Ross, recipient of the Teacher of the Year Award in 2011-2012, said, “I hear that I have a passion for my subject that borders on insanity.”
Teachers that are passionable about what they do inspire their students to love learning. “I think every teacher has their own drive to help students. That’s what I’ve always been about; I love what I teach, I love helping students learn,” said Mash.
Yost also loves her job mainly because she gets to work so closely with students. “Each student represents unique and enormous potential; my best moments are those in which I feel I have helped as many as I can learn to enjoy math and also to realize the pleasures of succeeding in math and working to maximum potential,” said Yost, “Nothing excites me more than when I’m explaining something and a student says ‘OOOHHH’, or when another student explains it better than I can.”
One quality that all teachers must possess is the ability to adapt to the different learning styles of their students. Yost said, “Each student has a unique learning style, so they may not understand the initial presentation of a certain concept. I try to incorporate hands on activities, encourage students to draw pictures, read it aloud, have another student explain, group activities, etc.”
In order ensure that students with differing learning styles can understand the material, many teachers try to vary the types of activities that they utilize in class. Ross, for example, said, “I try and include a variety of activities that address different learning styles every day …[and I will] vary that activity in different ways so different people get different things out of each of those activities, even though they’re based on the same source.”
Mash believes that teachers must also be reflective, meaning that they must consider different ways to explain the material before their lesson. “If you…don’t take into consideration the ways that [students] learn, then you’re setting yourself and your students up for frustration,” said Mash.
Teachers constantly adapt their teaching style to better fit the needs of students. For example, if a student is confused about a lesson, a teacher must change his explanation to elucidate the confusing concept. “Sometimes, students, when they are learning something…new, they don’t know what they’re confused about. So, you have to go back, and scaffold, and try to help them understand by asking them simple questions about the steps along the way,” said Mash.
No matter the subject, teachers devote an immense amount of time and energy to their students. It is through awards such as Teacher of the Year that teachers receive the validation and recognition that they deserve.