My Amazing Teachers

My Amazing Teachers
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Clearly there is a big difference between a bad teacher and an amazing teacher and most of us don’t fall into either camp.  I believe Dr. Jurgensen’s article is a good reminder for both teachers and administrators.  For teachers, it’s a reminder of the multi-layered and comprehensive style that great teaching requires today.  For administrators, it’s a reminder to not only search for teachers like this when hiring, but to also to empower your current teachers to think like this, as well as give them the resources and time to become Amazing Teachers.

My Amazing Teachers

By Dr. Christiana Jurgensen

Each year, as recruiting season gets under way, I am asked to write recommendation letters for teachers who have decided to try their luck in the international teaching world.  Some are easy to write, making it hard to fit the words on the preferred page size.  Other are a struggle, and I think have to reflect over the year to think of noteworthy things to include in an otherwise form-like letter.  What makes the difference between a fine teacher and an amazing teacher?  Here are some of the trends I have noticed in my experience over the years.

When I walk into the classroom of an outstanding teacher, the kids are not seated quietly at their desks.  Instead they are working in groups, reading on a pillow, asking the teacher a question, or taking it upon themselves to find the resources they need to complete the task at hand.  To take that a step further, in the very amazing classes, most students are not even working on the same task at all.  Each one is doing something different, but they are all focused and engaged.

My amazing teachers do not know everything.  They ask colleagues for help, they meet with resource and ESL specialists, they stop me in the hall with a new idea.  These teachers see the school year as an adventurre they will go on together with their students.  They pick a class song, make a movie, tell funny anecdotes, embarrass themselves by drawing on the board or dancing or singing, and let students be right and have a class mascot.

These teachers are always coming up with something new, whether teaching the water cycle in a new way or creating a 3-D bulletin board.  They read the latest education-related research and are always learning, no matter how many years they have been teaching.

Amazing teachers communicate with parents and share the triumphs, as we all as the trials.  They send emails and pictures and create newsletters, blogs, wikis, and websites.  These teachers understand that a great school is a community, and they contribute outside of the classroom.  They wear their amazing superhero costume during spirit week, volunteer to work a booth at the Halloween party, and coach teams.  They volunteer for accreditation teams and professional learning communities and advisory councils.  You’ll notice I have not mentioned anything about great teachers and test scores.  But here is the secret: with great teachers,  you do not need to mention test scores.  Consistantly the teachers described above are the ones whose students out perform other classes.  Their MAP scores are well beyond typical growth, ERB writing assessments scale scores are usually higher than grade average, IOWA percentile ranks are more than 75%, and so on!  Superior teachers take responsibility for all kids, which is reflected on standardized test results.

These are the teachers who make writing letters of recommendation fun for me.  Imagine what it must be like to be a student in their classes!  Now that “the season” is under way, ask yourself, are you an amazing teacher?


Dr. Christiana Jurgensen is the Lower School Principal at Escola Americana de Rio de Janeiro.  My Amazing Teachers was originally published in the winter 2012 edition of NewLinks by International School Services.

Author: Andy Aldrich

Andy is a founder of Learn[ed]Leadership as well as a school administrator at Punahou School in Honolulu, HI. In addition to pontificating on ideas in education, Andy stays busy chasing after his daughter and impressing his wife with his big muscles.

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