Teachers shape who we become
Teachers who are passionate about education are passionate about education. They learn and re-learn their trade. They love geeking out around the content of their subject material. They attend conferences and lead workshops. They buy cool stuff for their inventive lessons — often on their own dime. Day and night, they are thinking about their students and how to inspire participation. These masters of discovery and learning grow to understand precisely how to connect in a meaningful way with every single individual in their charge. They resolve conflict. They cultivate inspiration. They grind through endless homework assignments, project rubrics and unit assessments. They coordinate field trips. They raise money. They advocate for family support services. They coach softball and soccer. They endlessly counsel distraught parents. They help our young people to become thoughtful, articulate, cooperative, creative contributors. They eat, sleep, walk, and talk their passion for teaching. They model kindness, responsibility and integrity in a way that inspires young people to practice good choices. They put themselves in harm’s way to nurture and protect. They do it day in and day out, with or without thanks. They leave an indelible impression on the fabric of our character. They fundamentally help shape who we become. They are the living, breathing touchstones of our lives, empowering us to explore, wonder, discover, and seek more.
I started my career as a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Aspen Middle School in 1999. Upon completion of a Master’s degree in curriculum development and experiential education, I was hired to co-develop and team-teach an integrated pilot program around the Maroon Creek Watershed, only steps from my classroom door. Our lessons tied math and science to the flow and biology of the river. We learned about early hominids and ancient cultures in small groups, making flint knives, arrowheads, and primitive tools along the rocky banks of our very own alpine tributary. We read and wrote stories that connected the earliest inhabitants of our region to modern day communities, covering everything from geography, food production and housing to civic leadership, recreation, and natural resource management. Lessons came alive in our elaborately decorated classroom with family banquets celebrating international cultures, politics, philosophy, language, art, and innovations in technology and medicine. Units were student-designed around questions that had powerful meaning to them. They created their own study guides, learning tools and assessments to gauge learning, effort and participation. My 12-year-old seventh-graders became leaders of classroom management, monitoring and modifying their own behavior with articulate poise and heartfelt resolution. We had a tremendous amount of fun and learned an awful lot about life. Those kids are now in their mid-twenties, accomplished professionals, artists, scholars, and world-renowned athletes. The pride I feel for sharing time with those remarkable individuals fills my heart with gratitude.
And so, I take this opportunity to honor the teachers of the Roaring Fork Valley. For your dedication to your craft and the reverence with which you hold our children, I say thank you. I honor the superintendents and administrators of our local schools. For your vision and fearless leadership in spite of federal and state foolishness, I commend your steadfast support of those who look to you for direction and innovation. As a parent, as an educator, as a community member, I say thank you.
Last year, the Roaring Fork School District answered local requests for thinking outside the box, by adopting the Expeditionary Learning model at Glenwood Springs Elementary School. This response speaks to the bold leadership of Re-1 School District in support of student learning. In the next few weeks, Re-1 administrators will go even further to seek input from communities throughout the district in order to help shape the future of our local schools. This unique opportunity deserves praise and warrants our urgent support and enthusiastic participation.
To learn more about the Roaring Fork School District’s visioning process, visit: http://www.rfsd.k12.co.us/2013/09/rfsd-visioning-process.html.
Carbondale residents can join their neighbors in the process at: http://www.facebook.com/carbondaleconversation.
— This column usually runs on Saturdays, but was held this week until Sunday.
— Evan Zislis is founder and principal consultant of http://www.MyIntentionalSolutions.com, delivering hands-on organizational solutions for households, businesses, nonprofits, students, and life transitions. For more information about simplifying your stuff and organizing your life, call 366.2532 or email Evan@MyIntentionalSolutions.com.
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