We have all had teachers and moments in the classroom that have altered and shaped our education and, ultimately, our lives. I have been in the public education system for 12 years, beginning with public preschool, and have had many teachers. Some of my teachers I will never forget because they have had a lasting impact, and some, sadly, were not the best. The difference between the two were their abilities to get to know me both as a student and a person, collaborate with me to ensure I was getting a meaningful education, and encourage me to meet my full potential in and out of the classroom. This can be a daunting task for teachers, especially middle school and high school teachers who have over 100 students each with their own needs and experiences.
Being a first year teacher is extremely hard. I have seen teachers break down from the stress, lose hope of it ever getting better, and even quit where they were working in hope of a better experience. However, my algebra teacher, Ms. Cameron, was a first year teacher and one of the best teachers I have ever had.
Ms. Cameron student taught at our school the year before, so she was familiar with almost all of us going in to her first official year, which definitely helped. I, along with about eight other students, were in this algebra class together but also taking geometry. Our algebra class had almost 30 students: one-third was struggling, one-third was ready for the content, and one-third already knew the content. This would be a difficult situation for any teacher, much less a first year teacher. Ms. Cameron created ways to ensure everyone was learning and getting the help they needed. She used different methods of teaching, such as: online work, whole group lessons, small groups, games, and independent learning.
While this is impressive, what makes Ms. Cameron stand out the most is that she had each of us give her feedback every single day. Daily, we took five minutes to write to her about what we liked or thought could be better in the lesson, ask math related questions, or just tell her something. The next day without fail, we would have a response from her. I remember one exchange in particular. I had asked her what logarithms are and how they work and she filled up the entire page with explanations and example problems as well as different times we could talk if I was still confused. She is still one of my favorite teachers; I often help her tutor math students after school. This year she is working toward National Board certification, which I am sure she will receive. In fact, I’ve learned that she keeps perfecting her daily feedback forms to make sure that she can be even better for her students because she is the type of teacher that is always striving to be better and always puts her students’ needs first.
My mother is a National Board Certified Teacher, so I have known about National Board for as long as I can remember. This summer I actually had the privilege of reviewing and studying the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Student Agency Standard Study. As a student, I want to be known, seen, heard, and valued. In reviewing the Standards, I was impressed that National Board values the same things I do. Exceptional teachers know their students. My teachers who know me best or took the time to know me have been the best teachers I have had.
Ultimately, knowing students and building collaborative environments where students are viewed as equals in education decision making is at the heart of excellent teaching. Teachers, like Ms. Cameron, who are always looking to improve and be a better teacher make the biggest impacts on their students. I will never forget Ms. Cameron or her passion for math and sharing her love of math with every student she comes across.
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