And, in the blink of an eye.....summer packed up its bags and went away until next year. So, we find ourselves in the midst of "Back to School-ness." As such, I'm reminded of the best teachers I have ever known. During my time of reflection, I identified the common qualities of these extraordinary teachers.
The best teachers I have ever known...
1. are organized.
2. respect time.
3. love their subject matter and work to improve their teaching of it.
4. encourage students through recognition.
5. are value-added employees.
6. are optimistic.
7. are professional.
8. have high standards.
9. communicate well.
10. engage students.
This reflection causes me to pause and ask myself:
Am I organized and punctual? Do I seek continual improvement of my craft? How do I recognize excellence in my area of responsibility? How do I encourage my students?
If I quit my job today, would my supervisor mourn my departure wondering who would do my work or would he/she rejoice? Do I look for new ideas and contribute extra efforts to improve my school/district? Am I upbeat and look for the best in all situations or am I the "prophet of doom?"
Am I professional at all times? Confidential? Do I produce work that is noble and reflects favorably upon my profession? Do I have high standards? If I teach math, for example, do I look for national competitions/honor societies for my students' benefit?
Am I a good communicator? How do I share the good news/challenges related to my students with their parents and them? Am I an encourager?
How do I engage my students in class? Do I give them opportunities to stand before their peers to demonstrate mastery of the curriculum? Do I assign responsibilities to students to promote leadership and growth?
At the end of my day/year/career, there is nothing I long to hear professionally more than this: "You were the best teacher I ever had."
Amber Kent, one of the best teachers I have ever known and Dade County's Teacher of the Year 2018, created an Illumination Award to recognize students of character, such as Camryn. She worked hard for the past three years preparing meals for the hungry in our community. Shown below left to right: Board Member Jennifer Hartline, Board Chair Carolyn Bradford, Superintendent Dr. Jan Irons Harris, Camryn, Teacher Amber Kent, and Principal Tracy Blevins.
Wholey and I visited Washington, D.C. On July 24, 2019, God gave me the opportunity to visit the U.S. Department of Education!
The day I met Secretary Betsy DeVos was an amazing day that I will never forget. It was an honor for me to accompany Joy Hawkins, Executive Director of the Governor's Office for Student Achievement, GA State Superintendent Richard Woods, and their staff members to meet with the U.S. Department of Education Secretary.
I was asked to share about innovative programs we have in Dade County. I shared about our recent partnership with NASA and the 3D printer that will be used for our students to make parts for the Space Station. I talked about the Great Promise Partnership (partnerships with local industry) and REACH Scholarships.
I had an opportunity to talk about the needs of rural communities - specifically, the need for wifi and how much E-rate helps. I told Secretary DeVos we are increasing the rigor in our classes and we are creating caring cultures through our district-wide character ed plan and PBIS.
It was an honor for me to meet Secretary DeVos, a gracious and focused leader. The number one topic during our meeting: the need to meet each individual student's needs. Throughout the conversation, it was clear to me that Secretary DeVos expects everyone to raise the bar for our deserving students.
Left to right: Donovan Head, GOSA Deputy; Joy Hawkins, Governor's Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) Executive Director; Ryan Pelfrey, GOSA; U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos; GA Superintendent Richard Woods, Dr. Jan Irons Harris, Dade County Schools Superintendent; and Matt Jones, GA Department of Ed. Chief of Staff.
Jan Irons Harris, Ed.D.
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Jan earned her bachelor's degree in math/education from the University of North Alabama and her master's degree in math/education from the University of South Carolina. She earned her doctorate in school administration from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. She is married to her college sweetheart, Wholey Harris. She enjoys serving as superintendent of Dade County Schools in Trenton, GA.