Making the perfect teacher

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

What makes a great teacher?

"They have to be down to earth and not act authoritative," said Michael Zimmer, a student at Central High School. "They need to relate on a student level."

Student Nicole Annis thinks good teachers are ones who relate to students. "Some teachers just sit there like they're the adult and you're a little kid," she said.

A good teacher is someone who understands what students are going through and what's going on in their lives. And is a person with patience. "It takes a lot of patience to be a teacher," said student Soni Lloyd.

But teachers also have to be fun, area students said.

"They have to be somebody that's not so strict, who you can joke with," Lloyd said.

The characteristics of a good teacher vary depending on who you talk with. Students have a different answer than parents, who have different criteria than teachers or administrators.

Leanne Grant, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade English at Scott City Middle School, said teachers have to do more today than just prepare lessons.

Often they become counselors. "We deal with so many things," she said. "You have to be caring and concerned for your students."

Good teachers set Christian examples for their students, have good support groups that keep them motivated and, above all, are always flexible, Grant said.

Teachers must also continue their education to stay on top of what's happening in their field and to stay motivated, she added.

Nancy Bone, a junior high science teacher, said good teachers are those who love learning and like to teach the children how to discover new things.

But that still means making sure you have fun at work, said Esther Rehbein, who teaches computer technology at Blanchard Elementary School in Cape Girardeau. "You have to be motivated to keep them interested and excited about what's going on," she said.

Teachers should be hard-working and compassionate, genuine and fun-loving, first-grade teacher Mary Ann Lewis said.

"Are you describing me?" joked Rehbein, her co-worker.

Pete Frazier, who teaches social studies at Central High School, agrees that teachers must be compassionate and hard-working, but he'd also add determined and a person of high character.

Students want a teacher with a good personality and somebody who is honest and fair. "But their interpretation of fair is different than ours," he said.

Even the federal and state governments have a definition of what it takes to be a good teacher.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, federal education reform legislation signed into law last year, every state must create standards for student achievement, test student progress and provide school report cards.

Teachers hired in Missouri must be "highly qualified" for their post, according to information on the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Web site.

Highly qualified teachers are those who have full state accreditation, have earned at least a bachelor's degree and demonstrate knowledge and competency in the areas they teach.

Outstanding teachers in Cape Girardeau and Jackson are honored during Educator of the Year banquets hosted by the respective chambers of commerce. Additionally, 10 Cape Girardeau teachers receive $10,000 awards each year for being outstanding teachers. The awards are funded by Jerry and Richard Kinder in honor of their late mother, Edna.

Principal Dennis Parham of R.O. Hawkins Junior High School in Jackson thinks he's been pretty successful at selecting good teachers for the school. Of course there are background checks and intensive interviews.

"For it to be a good fit there has to be honesty and a frankness in their answers," he said of the interview process. "We want them to be happy and successful."

Happy, successful teachers stay motivated. Good teachers have a sense of humor "because that goes a long way," and have a love of learning, Parham said.

"It's something special to see the light click on in a student" when they've got the lesson, he said. "That's a big motivator for teachers."

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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