Best New Year’s Resolutions for Teachers

I came across this really terrific article published yesterday in the Huffington Post. It was written by Dallas Rico, an educator and young adult novelist. Because the post really resonated with me, I am reprinting it here:


The New Year’s Resolution Every Teacher Should Make

by Dallas Rico

In a week, we’ll see tons of prominent store displays and ads stacked with weight loss shakes, protein bars and supplement pills. That’s because, year after year, losing weight and getting in shape are among the top New Year’s resolutions. Inevitably, around February, many give up on that goal, just in time for all the beer and hot wings that come with Super Bowl parties.

Though I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions (given their failure rate), I do believe that we teachers are positioned to make and keep them. Why? Because that holiday break removes us from our normal day-to-day routine and affords us time to reflect on our practice. Naturally, as we spend the holidays out of the classroom, we think about how the first semester went and come up with ways to improve for the next.

Personally, I plan to develop more student-centered projects that bring their learning to life. As a Spanish teacher, I have the opportunity to make lessons more meaningful beyond worksheets and tests. I realize I can do more with that and will strive to do so next year. Perhaps you want to seek more professional development opportunities or become more involved in school programs. Maybe you want to make a better effort calling parents or returning assignments back quicker (the struggle is real).

In my years in education, I’ve seen a number of complacent teachers who are content with using the same lesson plans, assessments and materials each year. The truth is that even teachers who’ve been in the profession for over 25 years can improve in one way or another.

On the other side, the first year teacher may utterly feel overwhelmed and needing to get better at various things. That’s why every teacher can and should strive to improve in at least one way. That’s a reasonable New Year’s resolution, one that often happens naturally, but it still must be stated.

Due to the cyclical nature of education, especially if you teach the same subject and level each year, it’s easy to fall into a groove and always do the exact same thing, as if you’re an actor on a Broadway show. But I urge educators to find at least one way they can improve this year and create a plan to stick to it.

Thoughtful school administrators can also help teachers become more introspective. By introducing key school-wide initiatives, they push faculty to try new things. For instance, in a school I taught at in Los Angeles, the principal asked all teachers, even the Art, Math and P.E. teachers, to create one writing assignment within a two month period. The ultimate goal was to get students to write more and to improve the clarity of their arguments. After the window of time, all the teachers met and reflected on the process.

As a result, some, like our algebra teacher, began assigning more writing, thus, giving students more practice. Mission accomplished. Likewise, a savvy administrator can get the school to address a common issue with such an initiative.

For-profit companies set goals to make more money. Teachers set goals to get more students prepared for college and career. The better the teacher, the more prepared students will be. It all begins with saying “this year I will be a better teacher for my students by ______________.”

To view the original article, click on this link: New Year’s Resolutions for Teachers.


Alan Lawrence Sitomer: Novelist and Chalkboard Champion

alan-sitomer[1]A very unique chalkboard champion is Alan Lawrence Sitomer, novelist and educator who has earned a reputation nationally for his success in engaging reluctant readers and as a motivational speaker. He was named California Teacher of the Year by the California Board of Education in 2007.

Born in 1967, Alan earned his bachelor’s degree from USC, his teaching certificate through San Diego State University, and his master’s degree from National University. He has taught English, Creative Writing, Speech & Debate, and AVID at Lynwood High School, an inner city school located in Lynwood, Los Angeles County, California.

Alan’s published novels include The Hoopster, Hip Hop High School, and Homeboyz. He has also authored Hip-Hop Poetry & the Classics, a text that is currently being used in classrooms throughout the United States to teach classic poetry through hip-hop. The approach is intended to engaged reluctant students in both poetry and academics. Other titles published by Alan are a teacher’s methodology book entitled Teaching Teens & Reaping Results: In a Wi-Fi, Hip-Hop, Where-Has-All-The-Sanityh-Gone World and The Alan Sitomer BookJam.

You can find Alan Sitomer’s books on amazon and access his website at the following link:

Chalkboard Hero Golda Meir: American Teacher and Israeli Prime Minister

uewb_07_img0479Many people have heard of Golda Meir, the “Iron Lady of Israeli Politics” who served from 1969 to 1974 as the Prime Minister of Israel. But did you know that Golda was also a teacher?

Golda was born Golda Mabovitch in Kiev, Ukraine, on May 3, 1898. Her parents were Moshe and Blume Mabovitch, and Golda was one of eight children born to the couple. Five of her siblings died in infancy; Golda was the middle child of three surviving daughters. When she was a young child, her father immigrated to the United States; the rest of the family followed him three years later. The Mabovitches settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

As a youngster, Golda attended the Fourth Street Grade School where she graduated as the valedictorian of her class. She then enrolled in North Division High School, against the wishes of her parents, who believed that girls should get married, not pursue an education or a profession. In her freshman year, Golda moved to Denver, Colorado, to live with her older sister, Sheyna, and at that time she transferred to North High School. In Denver Golda met a Morris Myerson, and she fell in love. Despite this romance, in 1915, Golda returned to her parents’ home in Milwaukee, and the following year she graduated from North Division High School.

After her high school graduation, Golda enrolled at Wisconsin State Normal School to pursue a three-year degree in education. During her training, the neophyte educator taught young children reading, writing, and history three days a week at a folkshule, a Yiddish school at the Jewish Center of Milwaukee. She also gave numerous lectures on Zionism, a movement to establish a homeland for the Jewish people.

In 1917, Golda married her long-time boyfriend Morris Myerson. Later, she modified her surname to Meir. In 1921, the fourth year of their marriage, Golda and Morris emigrated to Palestine, where the couple quickly joined a kibbutz. Over the next five years, Golda and Morris had two children: a boy named Menachem in 1924, and daughter named Sarah in 1926.

Unfortunately, Morris contracted malaria, so the family left the kibbutz and moved to Jerusalem, where Golda accepted employment in a government job. She worked as the secretary of the Working Women’s Council, and represented the council at a number of international labor meetings. In 1929 Golda was named a delegate to the world Zionist Organization. In the next decade, Golda organized illegal immigration of Jews to Palestine when it became obvious that they faced persecution by the Nazis. In 1946, at the end of WWII, Golda was appointed the acting head of the Jewish Agency’s political department, a position she held until Israel was founded on May 14, 1948. The former teacher was among the signers of Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

Golda began her political career in Israel as that country’s representative to the Soviet Union. When she was elected to the first Israeli Parliament, she returned to Israel, where she was appointed minister of labor and social insurance. While serving in this capacity, she endeavored to solve the most important problems Israel faced at the time: housing and employment for 700,000 new immigrants. In 1947, David Ben Gurion, then Prime Minister of the fledgling country, appointed Golda his Foreign Minister, Israel’s second most powerful position. The only female foreign minister then serving in the world, Golda nevertheless conducted herself in a very informal way. She flew tourist class, hand-washed her own underwear, shined her own shoes, and entertained foreign dignitaries in her kitchen wearing an apron and serving them her homemade pastries.

In 1966, sixty-year old Golda decided to retire from public service, but her political party persuaded her to become their secretary general and the secretary of the unified Labor Party. When Prime Minister Levi Eshkol died suddenly in 1969, her party prevailed upon her to become Israel’s next Prime Minister. She guided her country through the difficult period of the Yom Kippur War. However, the former teacher was suffering from lymphatic cancer, and because of her declining health and political pressures, she decided to resign in 1974.

Golda Meir passed away on December 8, 1978, at the age of 80. At the time of her passing, Golda was recognized as one of the first women to lead a nation in the modern era. 

Margaret Antoinette Clapp: High School English Teacher and Pulitzer Prize Winner

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAIjAAAAJDNmMzlmMWFhLTAwNTQtNDQ3Ni1iMjY5LTAzMmU3MzEwMWIwZgOften talented educators garner accolades of international proportions. Once such educator was Margaret Antoinette Clapp, a high school English teacher and historian from New York City who also happened to be the winner of a Pulitzer prize for biography. Margaret Clapp was born on April 10, 1910, in East Orange, New Jersey. She was the youngest of four children, and the second daughter of Alfred Chapin and Anna (Roth) Clapp. As a teenager, she enrolled at East Orange High School, where she graduated in 1926. At the time of her high school graduation, she earned a scholarship to Wellesley College, where she earned her undergraduate degree in history and economics in 1930. While in college, Margaret was honored as a Wellesley College Scholar for her academic achievements. Margaret accepted her first teaching position at the prestigious Todhunter School for Girls in Manhattan, New York, where she taught English literature for twelve years. During these years, she enrolled in Columbia University, completing the requirements for her masters degree in 1937. During and after World War II, Margaret taught history at several New York City universities, including City College of New York, Douglass College, Columbia University, and Brooklyn College. Her doctoral dissertation at Columbia drew much praise, and was eventually developed into the biography Forgotten First Citizen: John Bigelow. John Bigelow was a little-known nineteenth-century politician, editor, reformer, and diplomat. Margaret’s dissertation was developed and eventually published in 1947. The manuscript was named the winner of the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. For her achievement, the talented teacher was featured in a cover story for Time Magazine on October 10, 1949. When she was 39 years old, Margaret accepted a position as the eighth president of Wellesley College, and she served in this capacity from 1949 until her retirement in 1966. At the time she accepted the position, she was one of only five women who were serving as university presidents. During her tenure, Wellesley’s financial resources and facilities were expanded to a substantial degree, and Margaret earned a reputation as a tireless advocate for careers for women. For her work at Wellesley, she was elected a Fellow of the American Academy for Arts and Sciences in 1952. The library at Wellesley is named in her honor. After leaving Wellesley, Margaret served briefly as administrator of Lady Doak College, a women’s college in Madurai, South India. She was then named as United States cultural attaché to India, and eventually became an official of public affairs in the United States Information Agency until her final retirement in 1971. After returning from India, this amazing chalkboard champion settled in Tyringham, Massachusetts. In her later years, she was diagnosed with cancer, and she passed away on May 3, 1974.

Katherine Kelley: High School Geometry Teacher and Beauty Pageant Winner Miss Nevada

LVI2301-K-240x300Many professional educators have earned acclaim in areas outside of the classroom. Such is the case with Katherine Kelley, a high school geometry teacher at Mojave High School in Clark County, Nevada, who is also a beauty pageant winner.

Katherine was born in Madisonville, Kentucky, on December 9, 1994. As a young teenager and student at Madisonville North Hopkins High School, she won her hometown pageant in 2009, garnering the title of Hopkins County Junior Miss. She also been an avid student of the piano since the age of ten.

After her high school graduation, Katherine enrolled in the University of Alabama, where she earned her bachelors degree in international relations, cum laude. Following her college graduation, she enrolled in a masters program at the University of Nevada. While there, she was crowned Miss Summerlin (2015), and in June of that same year she captured the title of Miss Nevada. With a GPA of 4.0, Katherine was also honored with an Outstanding Academic Achievement Award. 

Despite impressing pageant judges and the audience with her classical piano performance, Katherine has said, “I don’t think I want to be a professional musician. I am a teacher in North Las Vegas. I’ve always had a love of mathematics, and I want to continue teaching it. So many students don’t love it, and I want to inspire them with it.” Her devotion to her profession is obvious. Her pageant platform was “Every Day Counts: Improving Public School Attendance.” Through this platform, Katherine intends to work towards minimizing the challenges disadvantaged children face as they progress through the school system. “I enjoy spending the day in the classroom instilling a love of mathematics in my students,” Katherine expresses. “My dream job would be to become secretary of education in Washington, D.C.,” she says.

Katherine’s win as Miss Nevada qualified her to enter the Miss America Pageant last September. In that competition, the crown went to Miss Georgia, Betty Cantrell.