I was selected to represent my school at my districts Teacher of the Year competition, here is my letter of introduction. My interview is on Thursday.
I love history, from the broad historical trends that have shaped the various regions of the world to the personal first hand stories of struggles and triumph. History defines who we are as a nation and gives insight to the roots of our conflicts. For me, those connections are natural. I am intrinsically fascinated by history and the lessons that we can take from it.
But students, they have other things going on. They have MySpace, video games, texting, and all the other distractions that have plagued teenagers throughout the history of education. That’s where my love of history blends with my love of teaching. It takes more than me telling them something is interesting or important, I get them hooked and keep them engaged. I have to make the curriculum assessable while still maintaining high academic expectations. I have to get them to think about the French Revolution and the greater implications of the French Revolution when they just had a rockin’ weekend with their friends at the River or they have stayed up all night fighting trolls in World of Warcraft. I’ve never found that silver bullet solution, that one tried and true method that works for every student each day. Instead I have found dozens of techniques that I use to actively engage my students.
On any given day you may find my classes participating in deep discussions, dissecting primary sources, examining photographs online, reenacting portions of history, trying to solve a problem, analyzing art, writing poems, listening to music, empathizing with a specific individual from history, or playing a historical game. Students must understand the importance of different events and how most modern problems have deep historical foundations. History also serves as a tool to teach practical skills that will assist them long after the dates have faded from their memories. I craft my lessons so that students can develop a range of skills, from basic note taking and critically analyzing a source for bias to ultimately applying complex problem solving skills. The ability of level of each student helps determine the emphasis of specific skill sets, for instance AP students have much different needs than college prep students. I also create a balance between teacher-directed lessons and more constructivist student-center projects, providing opportunities for students to approach their learning on their own terms.
Over the years I have attempted to define my educational philosophy and found that I do my best work when not adhering to a rigid school of thought. I am always open to new ideas, theories, and techniques that better serve my objectives and the varying needs of my students. If I were to describe my teaching persona, I would say I am a history teacher trying to prepare students for the twenty-first century. That idea may be one of the most defining factors of my teaching career that has brought me extensively into the realm of staff development. I cannot imagine teaching without a computer or the Internet just a click away. Without getting on a soapbox, I do not think we can responsibly ignore the power of technology in the classroom. The American students of today get little or no academic direction how to responsibly use computers and the Internet in an ever-expanding global economy where there are significant potential long-term consequences. As a result, I have made it a priority to integrate cutting-edge technology-based projects and assignments throughout my curriculum. By the end of this year, students in my classes will have created digital video projects, completed WebQuests, mapped historical events in Google Earth, published their work on blogs, and used wikis to collaborate online.
Through my strong connection with the SDSU Department of Educational Technology, San Diego County Office of Education, GUHSD Technology Resources, and a strong Internet presence I have had the opportunity to help spread that message. In my 12 years in the district, I have had the privilege to speak to over 350 GUHSD teachers and hundreds more around the nation about integrating various forms of technology into their curriculum. Through these expanding connections I find myself part of a nationwide network of teachers and educational technologists who continually look to improve instructional strategies. At West Hills I have helped establish what I consider to be a model professional learning community for world history. Our five teacher team made incredible strides to enhance the course curriculum and provide equitable learning opportunities for all world history students, which resulted in a dramatic increase in subject SAT9 scores last year. We continue to bring our strengths together while still encouraging independent innovation.
In many ways I consider myself an artist. The mechanics of my classroom are fluid and flexible. I constantly work to improve my instruction. I refine and at times redefine the lessons and dynamics of my classroom as necessary. As a product and now an employee of this district, I know the caliber of teachers found in the GUHSD. I am honored to be nominated for the Teacher of the Year award, and I appreciate your consideration.