Sunday, September 7, 2014

Inspired By Teacher Debbie



Teacher Debbie was my son's math teacher before she was my most inspirational colleague.  I remember sitting in her classroom on Back to School Night wishing that she had been my math teacher.  Her passion for math was both palpable and infectious.  My son learned a lot from her that year and as a "mathy" kind of guy, her's was his favorite class.  

The following year, I was had the opportunity to work closely with Tr. Debbie.  We brought her up from the Lower School in the afternoons to teach math in the Middle School.  She and I shared students, so we interacted often.  We were in bi-weekly meetings together discussing student growth.  I got to sit in with her on some parent conferences, a thing that she adored because it gave her an opportunity to share good news with parents.  

Debbie's gifts are many, but it is her enthusiasm, hard work, innovation and kindness that have inspired me most over the years.

Excitement doesn't begin to cover Debbie's response to new ideas, technologies or strategies.  I have seen her jump up and down and clap her hands in faculty meetings with enthusiasm over anything from professional development opportunities to the new Maker Lab we were having installed.  She celebrates math holidays and famous mathematicians.  Her enthusiasm for teaching and learning impressed me the first day I met her and has never ceased to amaze me.

Debbie works extremely hard.  Mastery matters to her, so she is tireless in her efforts to assess and reteach skills.  She helps students during lunch and after school.  She spends time researching new ideas and implementing them.  She is often the first person at school in the morning and I am fairly certain she doesn't sit down very often while she is there.

All of her research leads Debbie to innovate like crazy.  She taught a bunch of kindergarten level students robotics.  She had her math class build and rebuild catapults so that they could maximize the distance.  She tries new apps and technologies to teach and assess student knowledge.  She does whatever it takes to help students understand the content in ingenious and inventive ways.

Tr. Debbie also happens to be one of the kindest people I have ever met.  She treats all of her students with respect and tenderness, even when they are being decidedly unlovable.  She forgives mistakes instantly, she offers support to teachers and students who need it and she always smiles.  This isn't a sappy, Pollyana-type kindness.  She sets high standards and holds students accountable, but her capacity for patience and gentleness seems limitless.

Once, I had to cover Tr. Debbie's math class.  I was a little worried that I wouldn't do a good job.  Towards the end of the period, as student referred to me as "Tr. Debbie, Jr." and I was inwardly thrilled.  To be identified, even in a small way, with her remarkable gifts was a high compliment, indeed!


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