Sunday May 6, 2018

OKCPS Foundation President: Teachers, students matter

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Oklahoma City Public Schools Teacher of the Year Anthony Chancellor shared this John Quincy Adams quote in his acceptance speech at the Stars of Education/Teacher of the Year event held Tuesday, with one addition. He added, “This statement would be just as true if Adams had ended with … you are a teacher.”

As nearly 400 people gathered to celebrate teachers, principals, support staff, volunteers and community partners, there was a festive atmosphere and palpable positive energy filling the room. The energy was certainly created by the John Marshall High School drum line, along with the Pierce Elementary School cheerleader and Rumble, as well as the amazing Starry Nights Jazz Choir from Classen SAS.

In addition to that, though, the celebratory feeling existed because everyone was there to honor public education.

As each Teacher of the Year finalist came on stage, a video was played that shared their philosophy of teaching and what it means to them. Each of them reflected on the calling that brought them to teaching. Many shared the funding struggles, lack of supplies and making do with little. Some shared the need for our state legislators to understand what their decisions are doing to classrooms across the state.

There were stories of teachers that had made a difference in their lives and inspired them to join the profession.

They talked of the joy in their students’ faces when they mastered a new skill or the innovative ways to “tickle the brain” of a child. Many talked about issues their students face, from poverty to ongoing family trauma and language barriers. Each and every one of them shared the love they have for their students and the dedication they have to these children.

Teachers do so much more than teach, and this is especially apparent in a large urban district like Oklahoma City Public Schools.

While waiting to do a TV interview the day after the event, Chancellor shared that he starts every day standing in the hall and greets every student coming in with a handshake and a question. It could be asking what their favorite gum is or what they did over the weekend or some other seemingly benign topic.

He said that he does this for two primary reasons. One was to get to know them, what they like and don’t like and what their interests are. The other reason is to gauge where they are that day. If they seem down or anxious, he notices.

He knows that many of his students deal with things in their lives that make coming to school ready to learn very challenging at times. Understanding his kids and where they are each day allows him to modify his lessons to the needs of his students.

Public education matters. All students matter. Teachers matter and they do amazing work. And, as one finalist said, “Superheroes don’t always wear capes.”

Read Mary Mélon’s original NewsOK editorial.

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