Outstanding Educator Award 2014

Onder Kaya
History, Robert College
Istanbul, Turkey

 

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Why did you decide to enter the field of education?

I like sharing knowledge with people, and learning from them. Naturally, I like my job as a history teacher as well. I am really lucky that I could turn my hobby into my profession.

What qualities or characteristics does it take to be an outstanding educator?

Besides the love of teaching, I believe it is about figuring out the parts of a subject (i.e., history) that are both fun and didactic. I am a collector; I like to travel, notice and document with pictures. I am happy to share these with my students. I also narrate historical events as stories, and find the connections between true life experiences and various fields like movies, music, and art.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Actively engaging the fields that I like. Also I believe following the social agenda as a part of my job, keeps me awake and on my toes. Besides, the school I am working at is one of the best high schools in Turkey. Therefore, I am surrounded with students and colleagues that positively contribute to my development.

What skills or mindsets do you want your students to leave your classroom having acquired?

I value the growth of my students as sensitive citizens toward their environment and the world, who have a broad perspective on various cultures, who can empathize within differences, and who can understand the causalities between events and circumstances.


Anita Chetty
Biology, The Harker School
San Jose, CA

 

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What qualities or characteristics does it take to be an outstanding educator?

I believe that teachers are instruments that can open the minds and hearts of young people. Through good teachers, young people can learn to believe in possibilities to better themselves and their world.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Every day, I get to interact with young people who have their whole lives in front of them. I get to share my passion, my love of subject with people who are just beginning to form opinions about their world. I feel as though my job is more play than work. I am very fortunate to be teaching in an environment that nurtures my love of learning so that I can share that love with young people.

What skills or mindsets do you want your students to leave your classroom having acquired?

I strive to provide my students with all the tools that they need in order to be highly engaged, confident problem solvers and thinkers not only in academics but in life. The ability to think critically, express thoughtful opinions and be accepting of diversity are essential tools. I want our students to graduate understanding that they are global citizens and their thoughts and actions matter.

What is the value of a liberal arts education?

A liberal arts education provides a balanced foundation. In our highly complex and rapidly changing world, it is essential that people not only be able to think critically but also communicate effectively.


Ellie Rozendaal
Publication Advisor, Sunset High School
Portland, OR

 

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Why did you decide to enter the field of education?

I began teaching when I was in high school, working as a tutor with struggling elementary students. I was touched, humbled, and blessed with a great deal of perspective when I understood the challenges these struggling kids were up against. I had some amazing teachers in my small town high school, and some mediocre ones. The amazing ones still make a difference in my life 20+ years later, whenever I reflect on my practice and what matters in life. Daily, I decide to be an educator, because it is overwhelming at times, and it matters.

What qualities or characteristics does it take to be an outstanding educator?

To be an outstanding educator, I believe that perhaps humility is the most important quality. You must always remember that you have so much to learn from your students. The journey is never done. I also think it requires a love for young people, for their spontanaety, intensity, the unique things that drive them, and the fresh hope they bring to our world.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing a student surprise themselves with their own abilities, seeing them find something of value within that they may not have realized was there.

What skills or mindsets do you want your students to leave your classroom having acquired?

When my students leave my classroom I want them to be creative thinkers, people with integrity and deep-founded opinions about things, to be leaders and people who make their own path. I believe that a liberal arts education enables students to be these things.


Benita Albert
Mathematics, Oak Ridge High School
Oak Ridge, TN

 

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Why did you decide to enter the field of education?

I never planned to be a teacher. I was an undergraduate mathematics major who was fortunate enough to receive a university assistantship during my senior year. This student job required that I attend a Math for Elementary Teachers class, keep a class attendance roll, conduct tutorials and assist with grading for an education department professor. I found the class to be addictive in the logical, enthralling development of reasoning/problem solving skills—it was my chance to relive my early childhood mathematically. Subsequently, this education professor offered me a graduate fellowship in mathematics education via a 1960’s federal government sponsored program to recruit prospective high school mathematics and science teachers. Though I was conflicted about accepting this unanticipated new career and the requisite additional coursework to become a certified teacher, I felt that if the government was willing to invest in me then I should give this opportunity a try. The fellowship required that I complete a master’s degree before serving a minimum of two years in a high school classroom. My first year of teaching was difficult, exhausting and full of questions as to my abilities and passion for the job. Thank goodness I went back for that mandatory second year, my chance to correct, to improve and to understand that every new day would be a new challenge. Now after 45 years in the classroom, I am convinced that I found the most inspiring and rewarding career. I have seen the future in my students and it looks promising.

What qualities does it take to be an outstanding educator?

  • Have a passion for the subject you teach
  • Value creative thought, foster different learning approaches, constructively criticize and praise persistence
  • Be accessible, helpful, honest, fair and ever optimistic
  • Be a continual learner, a role model for what you want in your students

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

My greatest rewards in teaching have often occurred after the fact, when my students return from college to tell me that they feel really confident about their math background. I am so proud that many of my students have pursued minors if not majors in mathematics and that they are now significantly contributing their talents in a diversity of fields from education to business to law, medicine and the applied sciences, not to forget many talented musicians/artists.

Within the classroom day, observing student enthusiasm for and engagement in the problem solving process is more than rewarding, it makes my job fun. There is absolutely no greater thrill than seeing a group of students approach a challenge with an unrelenting spirit, a sense of cooperation and an unabashed joy in the completion of the project.

What skills or mindsets do you want your students to leave your classroom having acquired?

I hope my students leave my classroom eager to take on new challenges, to freely question, to research and to persevere. I also hope that they are sharers with, and encouragers of others. I love hearing that many of my students volunteer as math tutors whether informally in their dorms or more formally through tutorial centers. The willingness to teach others implies a level of confidence that is reinforcing of itself, and that willingness ultimately contributes to a service-minded citizen.

What is the value of a liberal arts education?

A liberal arts education provides students the chance to pursue the rich diversity of academics. In particular, a liberal arts background fosters critical thinking and communication skills, creative career planning and the capacity for lifelong learning. For students with options wide open for their future career and with a passion for learning, a liberal arts degree provides exposure to the innumerable vocational and avocational possibilities awaiting their pursuit.


Charles Griffith
History, Westminster School
Simsbury, CT

 

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What qualities or characteristics does it take to be an outstanding educator?

In general a passion for their subject, and beyond that a passion for knowing, for learning, for growing, for finding out is essential, as well as an ability to gather up students and bring them along for the ride.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Those 'aha' moments: when a student has a flash of insight in the classroom, or writes an essay that makes a particularly penetrating point, or takes a productive leap forward with the material. At Westminster, I also coach soccer and hockey and work with students outside the classroom, and enjoy similarly rewarding moments: a great season (not in terms of wins and losses but with respect to the team itself) or great conversations about life in the dorm. Teaching here can make for long days sometimes, but I am almost always reminded of the importance of schools such as Westminster by these moments.

What skills or mindsets do you want your students to leave your classroom having acquired?

I want my students to be critical thinkers – to be able to absorb information and reflect deeply on how it fits together and what it all means – and to be able to communicate their own ideas effectively, whether verbally, on paper, or otherwise. I'm with John Locke on this: “true enlightenment comes from a opening your mind to sensation and then taking the time to reflect upon what you've experienced”.

What is the value of a liberal arts education?

I am perhaps old-fashioned in this day-and-age of specialization in all things, including education. But I think a broad, liberal education, one that challenges young people to think outside of themselves and to stretch in all ways, is absolutely essential to the growth of a whole human being. Every engineer should read poetry; every artist should learn calculus. Knowledge of history is necessary to participate in our democracy; learning another language opens us up to the wider world. Education in the liberal arts is a grand, 2,500 year-old tradition – and it's worked. Diving deeply in some things and broadly in others develops a flexibility of mind and completeness of person.