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The Makings of a Great Teacher

Apr 2, 2012

Six education department alumni give their take on what it means to teach … and to teach well

From the Editor:

I was in an education portfolio presentation last spring listening to two seniors, Randi Mitchell and Rachael Spencer, talk about what they had learned at Flagler. As they talked about their philosophy of education and the nuances of teaching deaf students, I was struck by their passion for teaching. How they saw it less as a job, and more of a calling.

As someone who also teaches here at Flagler, it made me want to know more about what makes a great teacher and I figured some of our distinguished Education Department alumni would be a great place to start.

So, what does it take to be a great teacher?

What is your philosophy of teaching? 
In a nutshell, I think every single child, despite his or her circumstances, is capable of so much learning. The challenge is to figure out how each student learns, and then provide opportunities that tap into their learning style such that they cannot wait to get to school.

What makes a great teacher? 
Remembering what it was like to be a small person in a big world is what makes a great teacher. … Teachers truly can make or break an attitude toward learning.  A great teacher knows this and understands when to push a child and when to back off.  

Why did you get into teaching? 
I got into teaching because I could not think of a more fun group of people to spend my day with than children! They are open, loving, curious, funny, honest and caring. They are, at age 5, who they are going to be when they are 30. When you teach, you are sometimes the first person on the planet to share information with our future’s “grown ups.”

How do you know when you’ve really connected with your students? 
When they share their fears or insecurities with me, and when they honestly admit they don’t understand something. Also, when they invite me to their birthday parties! Finally, when I tell them that if they don’t get busy we will have Saturday School and they say, “Yay!”

Teaching is more important than ever because …
Kids have more pressure than ever to succeed and be something.

What is your philosophy of teaching? 

To inspire children to become lifelong learners by encouraging them to realize that learning occurs at any time and anywhere. By providing students the opportunity to excel, I create an atmosphere conducive to learning where they will begin to be intrinsically motivated.

What makes a great teacher? 
Each school year I work to discover each child’s strengths and weaknesses. I strive to challenge the child in his or her best areas and bridge the gaps so weaknesses become strengths. Thereby the child will perform to his or her fullest potential. As these gaps are filling in, the child’s self image begins to improve, as does belief in themselves.

Why did you get into teaching? 
Growing up I always admired my teachers and believed that teachers truly made a difference in this world. I chose the path of special education due to my sister and my cousin having learning disabilities. I witnessed the daily struggles that they faced and how their teachers were able to tweak the lessons so they were able to better understand the concepts. I always thought it was magical and wanted to strive to be like that.

What makes it all worth it?
The future of education lies in our hands as teachers to create lifelong learners who will become productive members of society. By providing a secure, entertaining, loving classroom environment I am facilitating this process.

Teaching is more important than ever because …
The world is constantly changing with the growth of technology, and it is imperative that we as educators adapt to this new technology and embrace it. We need to infuse technology into our everyday lessons to make them more engaging. In this age of testing, we need to step back and encourage our students to think more and apply the variety of skills that we teach them.

What makes a great teacher? 

The teachers I remember most from my life were the ones who truly made me want to learn and come to class every single day. THIS is the type of teacher I will always strive to be.

Why did you get into teaching? 
William Arthur Ward once said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Inspiration has always been my driving passion for becoming a teacher.

How do you know when you’ve really connected with your students? 
The teachers who truly impacted me are the people whom I sincerely thank for making me into the knowledgeable, patient, compassionate, respectful, empathetic woman that I am today. These are the teachers that I connected with.

Teaching is more important than ever because …
Many students these days do not have the family support that students had when I was younger.

What is your philosophy of teaching? 

That all students can learn and achieve greatness. It does not matter where the student comes from — all that matters is where the student wants to go in life.

What makes a great teacher? 
Someone who is creative, memorable and trustworthy. Also, a good teacher leads the students to their educational goals and is a role model and mentor to the students.

Why did you get into teaching? 
I have always known I wanted to be a teacher. I enjoy working with kids because of their perspective on life, and I enjoy teaching and sharing ideas. Teaching allows me to be creative, work towards goals and also inspire individuals to be all they can be.

How do you know when you’ve really connected with your students? 
When I have gained the trust and respect of the student, then I know I have really connected with them. Also, I make sure students know that I want what is best for them.

Teaching is more important than ever because …
The purpose of education is to develop children to be successful in society and to be unique problem-solving thinkers.

What is your philosophy of teaching? 

Educators are key to the success of meaningful learning in and out of the classroom. Teachers must believe that a student’s potential should never be limited to their cognitive ability, background, race, or socio-economic status. Each lesson delivered must take into consideration the students’ needs and learning style to creatively challenge, engage and inspire them to their greatest achievement.

What makes a great teacher? 
What makes a teacher great is their willingness to build relationships with students and parents. Teachers should also be passionate about what they do. Passion is what drives you. Passion keeps you going during the ups and downs of education. Great teachers’ willingness to educate children is unconditional. They believe that all children deserve the very best.

Why did you get into teaching? 
I was working as a permanent substitute at a local elementary school. Anytime there was not a class for me to sub in, the principal would have me assist in an Exceptional Student Education classroom. I immediately fell in love with working with students with disabilities. One of the teachers that I worked with asked me why I wasn’t teaching, and I thought that was a good question.

How do you know when you’ve really connected with your students? 
When they call you mom by accident. Seriously, you know by how they respond to you. They laugh at your jokes; they are on their best behavior when you are sick; they get excited about the things that excite you; and most of all they want to learn all of the things that you are teaching.

Teaching is more important than ever because …
There is an increased need for passion for this important profession.

What is your philosophy of teaching?

That children should be provided with meaningful and engaging activities that stimulate natural curiosities, promote critical thinking, provide opportunities for problem solving and motivate their learning. I believe that capturing students’ interests is the key to successful learning, and enthusiasm is the key to successful teaching.

What makes a great teacher?
A teacher who puts the students’ needs first.

Why did you get into teaching?
When my son was young and he struggled with homework, I would sit and work with him and thought how nice this would be if I could teach others.

How do you know when you’ve really connected with your students?
When a student wants to tell you about their weekend or an event that happened in their life.

What makes it all worth it?
When I see that they have applied a concept that was taught earlier.

Teaching is more important than ever because …
More students are going to college and becoming successful men and women.

Brian Thompson, '95
Topics: Academics, Alumni

About the Magazine

Flagler College Magazine is published twice a year and sent to alumni, students, faculty and other members of the Flagler College community. It highlights the people, developments and accomplishments.

The magazine is produced by the college’s Public Information Office, and it has received awards and recognition from the Florida Public Relations Association, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and MarCom.

Flagler College Magazine
Apr 4, 2013
In February, Flagler College celebrated the rededication of Lewis Auditorium, formerly known as the Flagler College Auditorium.