Four Final Traits Shared by Great Teachers

This is the final post in a series of three regarding traits shared by great teachers.  If you missed the first one, it’s located here.

Trait 6:  They Value Collaboration

Megan Miller, a Pre AP Civics Teacher at Switzerland Point Middle School in St. Johns County, meets with her colleagues to exchange information.

“We have collaboration once a month at faculty meetings where someone’s showcasing what they’re doing in their classroom,” Miller said.  “And teachers figure out ways to adapt that to their subject area.  It’s huge.”

Trait 7:  They Are Exuberant, Positive, and Undaunted

Cindy Fitch, a longtime educator who now teaches academically challenged students at Oak Hill Elementary School, uses her smile, puns, and a quick wit to resonate with students.

“I enjoy laughing and having a good time,” Fitch said.  “I think you can make learning fun.  It’s either they’re on my level as far as humor is concerned, or I’m on their level.  We do a conga line when we learn division facts.  They like the ‘huh’ part the best.

Anything you can do to capture their excitement and get them to know that you can have fun while you learn and listen.”

They agree that reading at home its key.

Heather Keiser, a soft-spoken teacher at Avondale’s Fishweir Elementary School, is not quiet about this point.

“I feel that early on, the best thing a parent can do is read every single night to their children,” Keiser said.  “I know teachers say it all the time, but if you read to them, you’re your child’s best teacher.  They can’t get that anywhere else but from their home.

To hear their parents read with the fluency rate and how they read with expression, it’s so, so important.  They model what their parents do.  If they come in with that, they’re going to have huge gain.”

Trait 8: They Believe That Every Child Can Learn

Sandy Brusca, a fifth-grade reading teacher at Plantation Oaks Elementary School in Clay County, said it sounds corny, but it’s true.

“If you asked me my teaching philosophy–I know it’s cliché–but it’s that all children can succeed,” Brusca said.  “That’s a daunting task for us educators.

But what I do in my classroom from day one is to set up the classroom as a welcoming and safe environment.  I don’t mean free from crime.  I mean it’s a safe place where they can take chances on their learning.

They do have a voice and a say in here.  I always tell them I respect them and their thoughts and strengths and weaknesses.”

Trait 9: They Know the Need for Community Support

Youmone Berrien, 10th-grade English II and writing teacher from First Coast High School, was the 2011 Florida Blue Duval County Teacher of the Year.  Two years ago, 88 percent of her class was performing at a low level on the reading portion of the FCAT.

By the end of the year, 21 of 24 students made vast improvements.  She also founded the successful Ladies First Organization at First Coast High School to promote leadership and achievement in at-risk girls.

“My dad is African, and he always said it takes a village to raise a child,” Berrien said.  “So I always say it takes a community to teach our students.  It’s not just one teacher.  Community is key.  The community is what we need to help us in the classroom.”

Coming Tuesday:  I Haven’t Decided Yet, but Stay Tuned!