Mr. Seigman was my 11th grade AP Biology teacher. For an entire year of biology, he had us adopt a piece of land in a project called Plot Lab. My lab partner and I had to conduct a series of tests and observations all year long to track the biological processes at play. We then had to write a 75 page research paper. Mr. Seigman also had us do ongoing classroom labs from fetal pigs to fruit flies. He was always available before and after school and helped me develop a deeper understanding of the complexities of life -- in and out of the classroom. I have never worked harder or learned more in my life.
Mr. Seigman died a few years ago, and I never thanked him for leading me to become a teacher or a trainer of teachers. I saw him a few times when I returned to my high school, and he was always busy working with his students. He never got rich from his work, but he raised a family, studied biology, and inspired hundreds and hundreds of teenagers to see science as a living field and to find joy in hands-on discovery learning.
When I ask my college freshmen how they got to college, they usually thank one or two teachers or counselors who mentored and guided them. When I ask my current student teachers the same question, they always cite a teacher or professor who opened a window into passionate learning that led them to want to become a teacher.
Teachers make a huge difference in the lives of children.
I don't believe everyone is born a good teacher. I think people become good teachers through training and experience. Working conditions may differ dramatically, but good teachers, regardless of where they teach, believe that their students have potential and help them make major academic gains. They work tirelessly to create, teach, and evaluate assignments, and spend hours and hours mentoring and tutoring kids before, during, and after school. They also follow their educational passions -- whether it is biology or reading or social justice art or parent involvement or school reform. And they bring back what they learn into their classrooms and schools. They also go out of their way to help students navigate lives in and out of the classroom and realize their part in preparing kids for life after high school.
Because of Mr. Seigman, when I became an English teacher, I knew I wanted to build in all kinds of authentic learning opportunities. It took me years to get there, but I always tried to create my own plot labs through a myriad of activities combined with a serious commitment to helping my students become better readers, writers, and community members. And as I train teachers, I try to contribute to their toolbox of effective teaching and learning strategies and remind them that great teaching is hard, hard work.
I experience joy all the time because of my teaching. I watch as my college freshmen move into their GE and major classes and find joy in connecting their learning to real life. And there is nothing better than watching my student teachers in their future classrooms leading their students in extraordinary learning opportunities.
So as we continue to cut public education in unimaginable ways, please remember the amazing teachers that shaped your lives. Let us help fight to enable teachers to continue to provide the highest possible instruction possible.
So during this Teacher Appreciation Week, remember the Mr. Seigmans in your lives. The legacy of good teaching lasts a lifetime.
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