WVCTE Excellence in Teaching Award

WVCTE believes teachers do the most important work anywhere. And in West Virginia, we want to honor you.

Applications are now open for the WVCTE Excellence in Teaching Award. Celebrate your work!

Share with colleagues and consider applying.

Our mentor Bob Dandoy, WVCTE’s Obi-Wan, retired educator and affiliate leader for the PA Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts (PCTELA), former Region 2 Representative for NCTE’s Standing Committee on Affiliates and now Butler City, PA Council member, once said teachers should toot their own horns and celebrate their education and achievements. Bob is a teacher’s teacher, and he firmly believes in the expertise of educators. And he believes that expertise should be shared and celebrated.

And I agree. There are so many incredible teachers I work with/have worked with who are deserving of praise and recognition for making the impossible possible with their students.

Just this week I received an email from our school’s Family and Consumer Sciences teacher, who runs a professional-scale cafe with our students during the school day, and her enthusiasm is infectious. “Working with yeast is my jam!” she exclaimed when describing this week’s menu. These are the things that remind me how special teachers are and the talent and joy they bring to our young people.

I’m betting you know a teacher like this. I’d say there’s a good chance you are a teacher like this—one whose enthusiasm, expertise, dedication, and commitment to students and learning is infectious.

If this sounds like you or someone you know, let’s celebrate this important work.

Applications are now open for the WVCTE Excellence in Teaching Award. We have had a tremendous pool of nominees and finalists these past two years, and have awarded two extraordinary West Virginia teachers: Tia Miller of Chapmanville Regional High School, and Andrew Carroll of Elkins High School the WVCTE Excellence in Teaching Award.

Winners receive $100.00 and a pretty sweet engraved glass apple and are recognized at our annual awards luncheon at our state conference WVELA, co-sponsored by NWP@WVU.

Applications are simple. All you need to submit is an updated CV, a 2-page teaching philosophy, and 2 letters of reference. GO HERE to share this opportunity with colleagues or to submit your application.

WVCTE believes teachers do the most important work anywhere. And in West Virginia, we want to honor you.

Applications are due by Monday, March 2. Finalists will be notified by Monday, March 16, and the winner will be announced at the awards luncheon at WVELA20.

Celebrate your work! Share with colleagues and consider applying. Do what Bob Dandoy says…toot your own horn and celebrate the work you do with students each and every day.

Seeing Near and Seeing Far: The Conundrum of Educators

By Adrin Fisher

This fall, I began a rite of passage to familiar to all adults over a certain age: I got bifocals.  Though I am by no means ready to retire to the rocking chair on the porch, I am no longer a spring chicken, technically speaking.  My doctor suggested progressive lenses, which are one benefit of living in a first-world country: they are hidden in plain sight. No one sees the line where your prescription changes, so no one knows that your glasses are magical, allowing you to see much more than nature permits.

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My first set, however, were less than magic.  Turns out, I move my head around a lot and expect my eyes to focus regardless of what section of the lens is in front.  During my four long, angry days with those lenses, my students’ faces rippled before my eyes, I got headaches from squinting, and my default move became shutting my eyes and moving my head in search of a sweet spot of sight. 

It occurs to me that my adjustment to those dual-prescription lenses is a perfect metaphor for teaching: as reflective practitioners, we must teach ourselves to switch seamlessly between the near and the far to find the right vantage point.

Up close, we see a student as an individual person, a human being with the potential for self-actualization. Maslow teaches that the development of our “true self” is the goal of life. We see students as joys or as conundrums—as collections of abilities and not-quite-abilities and school-appropriate (or not) behaviors. We know their allergies, their WISC-IV results, their reputations from classrooms past, their avoidance strategies. We know whether someone at home is checking their grades or helping them study. We know whether they can spell or which type of sentence error they’re most likely to make. We see them up close. And sometimes, familiarity breeds contempt—or at least, exhaustion.

Likewise, we have to focus on the small things of our content. Though I’m fond of saying that literature is not like math in that there are many right answers, there are still right answers. There are perfect paragraphs and logical inferences and expressive reading. All these things are the near view.

On the other hand, teachers are tasked to see students from a distance. Elementary teachers in our state are tasked with far-seeing too frequently: benchmarks on the cores three times a year through purchased assessments and scripted programs promise far-seeing results.  While the idea is not completely abhorrent, the reality is that the network goes down, the passwords are unavailable, strep throat rages through the school on your computer day—and the teacher’s time is spent managing assessments that are designed to use a snapshot predict the future. The results my sons have gotten predict their Lexile and quartile levels in college: provided their lives remain smooth and predictable and their Hierarchies of Needs continue to be met, provided they are engaged in high-quality learning activities with a qualified teacher in a classroom with limited behavior problems and disruptions, provided they put in the effort needed to master even difficult topics, and provided their parents remain motivators interested in their success as students. That’s quite a tall order for one test to predict. However, we can’t reasonably eliminate all the testing either.

Likewise, in the long view, we predict the future for our students. That tendency to chat during whole group instruction? That bossiness in small group activities? Those behaviors lead to success in the marketplace. That divergent thinking (marked by questioning the teacher aggressively) shows creative leadership skills—the kind needed for an entrepreneur. We, teacher-friends, can work with all those up-close behaviors if we remember the long view. We can try to teach students the connection between success on the SAT writing rubric in November and success on the SAT in March, and the connection between a high school diploma and a real working wage. And to some degree, we can cross our fingers that the long view will be correct. 

The other evening, I took my sons for haircuts. I was paying the bill when a man called out, “Mrs. Fisher!  I thought that was you!” I turned around and recognized him immediately. This man was a kid—Dusty—who was in my class both in seventh grade and in twelfth grade.  He graduated a few years ago and now has a good job, an apartment, and a son.  We talked a minute and then I left just ahead of him.

As my kids and I were walking through the parking lot, Dusty came running out of the shop. “My baby’s in the truck!” he called to me. “Come see him!”

So I went over to his truck to see the baby and his mom.  I complimented the lovely child and his proud parents. Then Dusty said, “Do you have any kids this year that are as bad as I was?”

“Yes, actually,” I laughed. “I have a couple of challenges this year.”

“Well, I hope they get better for you,” he said as he and his family headed into the grocery store.

Dusty was a challenging student—for sure. At age twelve, he bounced off the walls and into detention and though he got older, he wasn’t exactly mature when I had him again as a senior.

I wish, though, that I could have seen his competent adult self when I was his harried middle-school English teacher or when I shook him awake in the midst of that co-teach senior class. It would have given me peace to know that—in the long term—he would turn out ok.

Teaching is in large part the struggle for the right vantage point, near or far—or somewhere in between. And so, teacher-friend, here is our challenge: to find the sweet spot as we look at each of our students both near and far. 

And just in case you were wondering, I went back to the eye doctor and had my lenses remade. I’m still getting used to them, but I’m grateful for the healthcare and the life lesson. Sometimes we have to be patient, because it’s just a bit blurry in the middle.

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WVCTE wants you to contribute to the conversation. How do you balance the near-and-far of teaching? Leave us a question or comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!

Adrin Fisher is a contributing blogger for WVCTE. She’s a National Board Certified Teacher smack in the middle of her twenty-second year of teaching and currently working with seniors in co-teaches and dual-credit classes, and honors-level sophomores. When she’s not surrounded with her prep calendars and a pile of books, encouraging and supporting her colleagues, or conferencing with budding writers, you can find her reading with her kids, tree bathing in the park, or taking notes on life in her current composition book. You can follow her on Twitter @fisheradrin

The Top Five Reasons Why Back-to-School is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Teaching is a profession to be proud of, and you do work worthy of song.

By Adrin Fisher

Well, it’s that time again.  The summer has slipped by like seawater through a sieve, and teachers are back at school shaking off the dust covers and jockeying for position in the Xerox room—or sitting in mind-numbing professional development meetings under florescent lights—or maybe even standing in front of a class of bleary-eyed high school kids with a bright smile plastered on.

Wherever you are in the back-to-school process, teacher-friend, I want to take a few minutes to remind you of the reasons for the season.

Number Five

Mornings. 

Getting up early is a gift.  You hear those birds singing what my dad calls the “morning chorus,” or the early-morning commuters and the rumble of heavy trucks—or both, depending on your neighborhood, which reminds you that, even though you may feel like it, you’re not the first one up.  Your positive mindset allows you to see an early morning as a reward.  The sun starts rising through the fog and clarity comes.  A hot beverage, a couple of yoga stretches, a few minutes with your novel or in quiet meditation, and you are invincible.

Number Four

Routine. 

“Normal” workers around the world probably get sick of routine, but teachers are a special breed.  It’s great to have a few weeks of summer with a different set of expectations because we can appreciate the return of normalcy.  I enjoy getting my clothes ready on Sunday evenings, hanging them up by outfit, ironed and ready to be grabbed on a weekday morning.  We pack lunches before bed. We return to kids’ bedtimes and homework at the dining room table.  This fall we have some big changes in our schedule as our older son is moving to high school, but we’ve started practicing earlier wake-up times and we have a morning schedule in place…sort of.  Wish us luck!

Number Three

Newness. 

There is nothing like a new pen fresh from the package, or a smooth, new academic calendar, or a new box of crayons.  But even more exciting, teachers get the privilege of looking at a room full of fresh faces.  We all start off in the “honeymoon” stage, where we’re just getting to know our students, and whether we have 17 or 140, the classroom is full of possibility.  It’s our chance to meet these humans in our charge and make them feel seen and heard. What an honor!

Number Two

Challenge.

I’ll be the first to admit that starting a new school year is hard.  The mornings, the routine, and the newness all contribute to the challenge, but the challenge is also the work.  The back-to-school nightmares—dreams of classrooms out of control, missing photocopies, inexplicable requests from the office—started for me in July this year.  You? 

There are the personal challenges that arise from regular life, family life, being a child and being a parent.  There is the personal challenge of simply dealing with many, many vivid personalities all day.  Making 1,000,000 decisions during a work day is exhausting, and often leaves me too tired to have an opinion about anything in the evenings.

And beyond that, there are the professional challenges: maintaining a positive outlook in the face of ever-increasing demands to your daily job; working well with difficult colleagues; taking classes or doing professional reading to maintain your certification or stay current in your field; and then, for an English teacher at least, the incessant demands of planning, photocopying, organizing, communicating and correcting-correcting-correcting that writing.

This is not a job for the faint-of-heart, or the lazy.  Meet it head-on, teacher-friend.  Find your balance. You can do it!

Number One

Pride. 

When someone asks you what you do, you say—without hesitation—“I am a teacher.”  You use the verb form “to be,” because teaching is more than what you do—it is who you are. Teaching is a calling. 

Teaching is an art and a science.  It’s a labor of love, a passion. 

Teaching is activism. Teachers spark change. It’s in the job description.

Teaching is a response to a real, sincere, measurable need. Students need you.  Colleagues need you, especially the newer ones. Teaching is a daily opportunity to serve others with a generous spirit. 

It is—as in the days of the warrior-poets of Beowulf—a path to immortality.

Teaching is a profession to be proud of, and you do work worthy of song.

I want to leave you with the words of teacher-poet Taylor Mali, who performed “What Teachers Make” on HBO’s Def Poetry.  But rather than quoting him, I’ll let you hear him say it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8I_JK6tTGKo

Have a wonder-filled, awe-inspiring school year, teacher-friend.  Go out there and make a difference, wherever you are and whatever your reason!

WVCTE wants you to contribute to the conversation.  What is your reason for the season?  Leave us a question or comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!

Adrin Fisher is a contributing blogger for WVCTE. When she’s not surrounded with her prep calendars and a pile of books, encouraging and supporting her colleagues, or conferencing with budding writers, you can find her reading with her kids, tree bathing in the park, or taking notes on life in her current composition book. You can follow her on Twitter @fisheradrin