Monday, March 20, 2017

The Equation for Becoming Teacher of the Year

     Recently in one of my courses we had the privilege of receiving a visit from the 2017 South Dakota, Teacher of the Year, Beth Kaltsulas. To our liking, Beth just so happened to be a fellow math educator at the middle school level. While visiting our campus, Beth was able to visit and present to many different content areas of the education department, and fortunately to our math class as well. Dr. Vestal gave a brief introduction and then Beth took the floor. Coming into our class she had up to three different presentations prepared to share with us young, future educators and you could feel the energy within her as she was realizing her reality at the moment.
     As Beth began speaking and sharing her experiences and stories, I found my mind wandering (sorry Beth) to the same questions over and over again:

  • What did she do differently that set her apart to become teacher of the year? 
  • As a young educator, did she set this as a goal of hers to claim this title one day? 
  • Were there steps to follow to become the SD Teacher of the Year? 
  • Is there an equation? (She is a math teacher!)

     As she shared her stories I began constructing what this equation could possibly be. It seems as if you might:
Take your four years of education, SUBTRACT at least two years of that education that didn’t apply to teaching, ADD a dozen lessons you learn within your first year of teaching MULTIPLIED by the number of students that prove your education courses wrong, DIVIDED BY the number of students that prove your education courses right, ADD the number of additional hours you need to spend outside of the classroom MULTIPLIED by the number of students who need your help outside of the classroom, ADD every single club and organization in the school MULTIPLIED by the hours spent chaperoning and participating in each of those, SUBTRACT your so called 8:00-5:00 job, ADD the expectation to teach all the standards MULTIPLIED by the number of classes you teach and those specific standards, while still SUBTRACTING the idea of teaching to the test while ADDING the use of technology any way you can while SUBTRACTING the fact that your school board has limited resources and walahhhhh! = Teacher of the Year. 
     Well as with anything else in life, I realize the answer to most of these questions was not what our math brains want. There is no one answer, no process and procedure to follow, no problem to derive and make logical sense of, and of course, no equation. Before I continue on, I want to make it clear that I am not writing with the mindset and intention to figure out how to become Teacher of the Year one day. Beth was awarded this honor for a number of reasons, and I am sure she would say there were also a number of teachers that could have also received this award. My ideas in this blog are not to minimize this award to a simple procedure to follow, knowing that would belittle the teachers that have dedicated themselves to being great educators, and great people, but rather to highlight some of the attributes all great educators have.  
     Beth shared much of her own personal philosophy and mantras for teaching, some of which I too hope to implement as a future educator. She had philosophies on homework, use of technology, testing, quizzes, just about everything and you could tell her years of experience have equipped her well for each of these pieces. As she continued sharing I found an overarching theme within her teaching style that I felt covered all that she had mentioned: Welcome Change. 
     Beth is not a stagnant educator. Just about every story she shared included the idea of her needing to change, adapt, or alter something. She was willing to change for her school, for her administration, for the technology uprise, and for her students. Beth constantly seemed to be striving towards always being able to answer the question, “Is this the best for…?” while never inserting her name at the end of that question or fearing the work, time, and effort that these changes may require. 
     Her principal needed her to teach a special education class, in which she had no experience or training. She welcomed the change. Technology has vastly changed and enhanced since she became an educator. She welcomed the change. The idea of a flipped classroom came prominent and popular within the education world. She welcomed the change. She found many students struggling with math and felt the need to start a Math Academy. She welcomed the change. And now, after receiving Teacher of the Year, she’s being asked to speak at a number of conferences, seminars, and to all types of classes. She’s welcoming the change. 
     I recognized this trait within her from only listening to her speak for about an hour. It is clear, that to be this type of educator, we as teachers need to always be searching for what’s best. Allowing ourselves to lay down our own personal mantras and philosophies when needed. Always willing to learn from others, and implement accordingly. Always searching for new and better, while keeping what is good. Always welcoming change. Thank you, Beth for teaching us future teachers. Thank you for sharing your experiences and time in order to better the education world around you. Thank you for welcoming change at whatever cost to make things better for others, and for allowing us to learn from your example.  

By Bailey Jorgensen