Beans & Rice for the Soul

teaching, learning and living around the world

Fanfare for the Uncommon Teacher

Usually I abide by a no-work-emails-past-8pm policy, but when I received word one night that the 2015 Fishman Prize winners were coming to our office, I immediately responded with unbridled enthusiasm:

EVERYONE MUST GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I don’t even believe in sending work emails at this hour but this time it’s worth it.
The Fishman Prize honors amazing teachers in the United States who show an extraordinary ability to lead students from all backgrounds to academic excellence; a keen understanding of effective instructional practice and an ability to articulate it clearly; and a passion for teaching and a deep commitment to advancing the teaching profession.
When I saw their two taxis pull up to the office I whisper-yelled, “They’re heeerrre!” and our staff gathered around as they set up the panel of prize winners:
Erica Mariola
Zeke Phillips
Stephanie Sun
Erin Dukeshire
My goal was to listen well, ask one of my twenty questions and… to not chicken out of asking for a photo. More than anything, I wanted them to know what a big deal they are.
I wanted it to feel like this Aaron Copland song was playing: Fanfare for the Uncommon Teachers.
Needless to say, it was a fantastic day.  It was great to hear each of them highlight so many of the things I believe the international community needs to focus on in order to close the global achievement gap.
  • Great teaching is all about improving student performance.
  • Teachers can get way better, way faster by being coached.
  • Curriculum needs to be built around clear goals and rigorous questions.

After the panel discussion, I stuck around to gush. A colleague mentioned to Stephanie Sun that several weeks prior I had posted this write up about her, Surprising Ms. Sunshine, in our office kitchen.  I spoke to Erin Dukeshire, who had clearly listened when I spoke about some of the benefits and challenges of scripted instruction.  She recommended a beautiful book, Puzzling Moments, Teachable Moments.

Overall, I think great teachers are worth celebrating.  I’m sure no one would disagree with that.  However, often times when we recognize the great ones it gets clouded by statements like, “We appreciate the great work of XXXX teacher, and the great work of all of our teachers.”

The problem with statements like that is…  all teachers don’t do great work.
Just like every musician doesn’t do great work.
Every athlete doesn’t do great work.

And that’s why I believe in teacher prizes.

Because not everyone wins.
Not everyone is an MVP.

I follow teacher prize winners like some people follow professional athletes. Because whether it’s Carli Lloyd, Misty Copeland or Nancie Atwell, it’s inspiring to watch and learn from people who do great work.

If you know a great teacher, consider nominating him/her for a prize:

  • The Global Teacher Prize is a $1,000,000 award that is given to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.
  • The Fishman Prize honors amazing teachers with $25,000 and the chance to share their knowledge with educators nationwide.
  • Many education schools, like the Curry School Foundation, honor exemplary alumni who have made considerable contributions to the field of education or their chosen career field.

One comment on “Fanfare for the Uncommon Teacher

  1. Sally
    July 21, 2015

    I was visiting in Boston when this occurred. Honestly, I thought Sara was going jump through the ceiling with excitement when she was told they were coming! Loved your story and reading about these wonderful teachers and seeing their pictures.

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This entry was posted on July 21, 2015 by in books, inspiration, teaching.
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