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Letters to the Editor

Terrific teachers

Ivan Holmes August 7th, 2013

After reading the commentary by John Thompson in the July 17 Oklahoma Gazette on using student test scores for teacher evaluations (”Avoiding a fiasco in education”), it reminded me of an article I wrote several years ago on, “What is a master teacher?” I explained that a master teacher:

—Makes students his or her top priority;
—Has the ability to stimulate students;
—Consistently looks for and brings to the classroom current and stimulating material;
—Works with students outside the classroom on projects that give students a practical application for the subject;
—Keeps up with his or her field of expertise;
—Has the ability to see individual differences in students;
—Has the ability to get students to ask challenging questions;
—Has enthusiasm for what he or she is teaching;
—Really does care about his or her students, and
—Has the ability to teach students how to think and problem-solve.

The problem(s) we face today is how we can find ways to make classroom teaching important once again in society. Until we find a way to recognize and reward great teachers and make it as vital in our society as coaching a championship sports team, we’re never going to solve our problems in education. We also have to do a better job of training our future teachers. Until our universities make training teachers a top priority, we’re never going to have enough master teachers.

Some say there is no real way to evaluate how effective teachers are in a classroom. I don’t agree. Having spent 35 years in the classroom at the high school, junior college, college and university levels, I can walk in a classroom and tell in a short period of time whether or not a teacher is a master teacher.

It is not the building or even the equipment — although both are important — that makes the educational system work. It is the master teacher.

—Ivan Holmes, Oklahoma City

Holmes is a past regent and commissioner to the Education Commission of the States under former Gov. David Boren.

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