Great Teachers

A story in the Regina Leader Post over the weekend caught my attention and I was glad I took the time to read it. 

It is so easy to complain about teachers, the education system. It’s always easy to lay blame and to seek out the problems.  When I hear a story about someone doing wonderful things and making a positive impact, making a difference in children’s and parents’ lives, I’m rising like air.  It puts a smile on my face and a spring in my step.

The story that resulted in the good feelings is about Michelle Dizy who is a pre-kindergarten teacher at Ecole St. Mary in Regina, SK Canada.  The icing on the cake is that she not only does wonderful things, she was recognized for doing wonderful things.  She was recently honoured by being named as a recipient of the prime minister’s award for excellence in early childhood teaching after being nominated by her principal Sharlene Holliday.  I really think it’s important for bosses to show how much they value their staff’s contributions and efforts.    It motivates people to keep going, especially when the going gets a bit tough, which we all know is bound to happen at some point.

“I knew if I submitted her name that she would be successful,” Principal Holliday says.  “Everyone raves about her kindness, her creativity. She’s also a quiet, positive leader in the school and really encourages everyone to take chances with their own learning.”

Sounds like Holliday is the type of boss most of us would like to work for.  Dizy seems to be the kind of employee any boss would want on their payroll.  Working together, supporting each other to reach success.  I have a feeling both of these people actually look forward to going to work most days.

Here are some of the things that were mentioned in the article that makes Dizy stand out as a teacher.  You’ll note that none of them include simply doing things the way we’ve always done them without giving it much thought.  That is not what created Dizy’s success story.

Four years ago Dizy introduced a tool called Smilebox which she uses to create an electronic profile for each student, including photos and results, as feedback for parents on how their child is faring in all aspects of their learning and growth, not just academically.

Her success  resulted in the Smilebox tool  being expanded to kindergarten through Grade 2 at her school.  Love it, sharing knowledge and tools to build on existing successes.

But that’s not all this teacher has implemented.  I know that I learn faster and with less effort when I’m engaged in the topic, see the relevance, and it’s fun!   So Dizy uses that information to build her lessons.  She takes into consideration what her students are interested in and what’s going on at home and in the community.  She recognizes that each event in a person’s life can be the starting point for learning more.

My son was fortunate enough to have a grade 1 teacher much like Dizy.  He’d come home and I’d ask “What did you learn today?”  He’d look at me with bright eyes, face flushed with excitement and say “Nothing!  But do you know what we did?  I read a whole book by myself today and it had hard words that I sounded out, and teacher brought chop sticks for all of us and she told us how they use them to eat in China and how they make them and the different food they eat and she showed us how to use them and see?  We got to bring them home, somebody in China made these mom and she brought them all the way back to Canada in her suitcase!!  And she was on a plane for like a whole day just to get there!  China’s across the ocean mom. Did you know they built a HUGE wall and it’s called the Great Wall of China and and ……”  But nope, they didn’t learn anything; they just had fun.

One of my favourite things Dizy has done is to implement Family Fridays.  The families of her class get together sometimes at the school, sometimes away from the school and do you know what incredible things they do?  They play and learn and build strong relationships between the parents, families, students and teacher.   Wow, that just might be considered a support network for everyone involved. What a fantastic concept, families and the school working together for the betterment of everyone.

When my children were little we used to joke that mother’s no longer had names.  We were usually referred to by children and parents alike as  “so and so’s mom or dad”.  Something tells me that most of the parents in her pre-kindergarten class are on a first name basis.

“It’s about creating that sense of community,” Michelle Dizy

Community.  Yes, there’s the idea of a support network, family style atmosphere again.

As with so many people who think outside the box she considers it the norm.

“But I’m not doing anything earth-shattering or groundbreaking.” she says.

Oh, but I beg to differ.  It’s exceptional because a huge number of people whether they are teachers or not are “happy” just doing what’s always been done, complaining about the same problems instead of looking for simple solutions that will work.  Simple doesn’t always mean there is no complexity or that they don’t take effort or time.   Simple just means that they are doable and relatively straight forward, if you are willing to  take the time to think, feel and implement them.

The other ingredient that is key is support.  Wonderful teachers need the support of their principal, other staff and parents otherwise they can’t have that magical impact on our children’s lives.

We need to not only retain and reward teachers like Michelle Dizy, we need to find ways to help those teachers inspire and help other teachers to find their magic and share it too.

I believe that every child deserves to have at least one Michelle Dizy as a teacher in their school years.  They will remember that teacher for their entire life. What I hope is possible, and on the way to being a reality is that every child will not just have one teacher like Mrs. Dizy to remember, but that ever teacher they have, will find a way to share the magic of learning with their students, not just the facts and figures that go with it.

To all the Michelle Dizy’s out there.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

© 2013 J Fries/Rise Like Air

Quotes by M. Dizy and S. Holliday are taken from the Leader Post article.

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