Distinguishing Teachers

By Michelle Rabinovich

Grandview’s teachers should be top tier and respected as such. The current Teacher of the Year Award winning process accomplishes neither.

It is once again time to cast your votes for Grandview High School’s Distinguished Teacher Award (DTA), or “Teacher of the Year” as it is commonly called.

Generally speaking, Grandview’s  teachers do their job very well. Some even go above and beyond to earn their place in the Teacher Hall of Fame. Of course, this isn’t to say that the process is without its flaws.

According to the official nomination form, the purpose of this award is “to recognize the teaching profession by honoring Distinguished Teachers for their Excellence in Teaching.” This mantra sounds great in theory, and I agree that in today’s society our teachers and school administrators do not often get the recognition and respect they deserve. However, the system we currently have in place is not an effective way of honoring the teachers that deserve said honor. Due to a few eligibility requirements, this prestigious award is not necessarily being given to the most deserving of educators, thus rewarding mediocrity and taking away any form of prestige from earning this reward.

To be eligible for the DTA, nominated teachers must have taught in the Cherry Creek School District for five complete years. The teachers that fit this guideline are then placed on a list. The list is shortened dramatically when the next requirement is implemented: No teacher can be nominated that has already won the DTA in the past.

According to Joni Somers, Administrative Assistant to the Principal, ¨teachers cannot win again in order to share the wealth. It is just such a great honor to win [the DTA], I think it is just to help make sure we share that honor.”

What I can’t seem to wrap my head around is how it is an honor to win what is essentially a glamorized participation trophy.

If teacher A is deserving of the award-- and is nominated by students to be their teacher of the year-- it is ridiculous to tell them “Sorry, but you won five years ago. Tough luck.” If a teacher wins an award, they have won for a reason. It diminishes the prestige of winning if you know everyone else will win eventually, too.

This requirement is unfair and counterintuitive. If it wouldn't make sense in any other profession or position, it should not be written off as okay at Grandview either.

Due to a few eligibility requirements, this prestigious award is not necessarily being given to the most deserving of educators, thus rewarding mediocrity and taking away any form of prestige from earning this reward.

Let’s put this in perspective. The National Football league Most Valuable Player Award (NFL MVP) is awarded to the American football player who is considered the most valuable in the NFL. Some of you may remember Peyton Manning winning his fifth league MVP award in 2014. Imagine if Manning couldn’t win his second MVP award until everyone else in the league had won at least once -- including Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell who was named one of the worst NFL Draft Picks in NFL History by BleacherReport.com writer Vincent Frank.

On a more personal note, if honor roll could only be achieved by a student one year, and they could not be back on honor roll until everyone else had been awarded honor roll too, would being an honor roll student mean anything anymore? Would it still be something to work towards?

If we re-apply this concept to teachers, the vision is actually quite terrifying. Even now there are teachers students have throughout their school careers who hold ridiculous expectations, come across as incompetent of their craft, or even worse: just plain don’t teach.

What we really need is a way for the students, parents, and staff to have a simple yet effective way of casting their votes that transcends unreasonable eligibility guidelines.The important thing to take away is the necessity for reform in the awarding process.

In order to receive the DTA, students, parents, and community members fill out a form, selecting two people from the list of eligible teachers. After the deadline, the forms are turned over the the Grandview Nomination Committee, made up of Administration and PTCO members. A common misconception is that the DTA is nothing but a popularity contest.

“I believe it’s based more upon what the students write about the teacher than the actual number of nominations.” Somers said.

Again, this presents a problem.

Even if Teacher A has more votes than Teacher B, a more eloquently worded and well reasoned description would allow Teacher B to win the award. This grants the Grandview Nomination Committee the power to say what makes a good teacher, even though they spend little to no time with said teachers.

Some may suggest that DTA winners should be based solely upon student votes, but this is also unrealistic, again making the win more of a popularity contest than a true reflection of teacher quality. Ultimately, this might have a negative effect on teachers; causing them to focus more on befriending the students as “cool teachers” rather than making sure the students learn the necessary content.

In that case, what makes a ¨good¨ teacher? This, as with describing a good person in general, is insanely difficult due to the sheer fact of its subjectivity.

¨A good teacher is someone who engages with their class. They need to keep the class interesting and fun but not in a way that distracts from the learning, but enhances it,¨ Said  senior Skylar Chavez.

“A good teacher knows exactly what they’re doing,” adds senior Amira Reyad. “They know the balance between strict and restrictive. They care about the students, and not just in terms of the subject but even with college and life decisions. They inspire confidence in the students and make sure they understand the material.”

Again, most of Grandview’s teachers meet this standard, but what if the teacher that fits your ideals has already won? Do you settle for someone who doesn’t meet your standards, or someone who you’ve never met? Or is it finally time for  a reform in the DTA process?

Perhaps this is an impossible situation, or maybe the answer is more simple than it seems. My advice here is the same I give during political elections: Vote. Just do it. Get your voice out there and make sure your vote for DTA is a meaningful one. Too often there are complaints about a certain teacher winning the award over another.  As Gandhi said, ¨Be the change you wish to see in the world¨.

 

Your vote for DTA winner for the 2017-18 school year is open until November 30th.

You can find the Teacher of the Year Nomination Form here.

What makes a good teacher in your opinon? Let us know in the comments below!

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