Teaching beyond the Books Top Educators Share Their Concerns about the Future of the Classroom

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 28, 2003 | Go to article overview

Teaching beyond the Books Top Educators Share Their Concerns about the Future of the Classroom


Newsmakers discuss issues of the day

From helping their students with life's pressures to balancing their workloads, area teachers have a lot on their plates.

The federally mandated No Child Left Behind Act, which will require all students to meet state standards by 2014, will add to the issues students and educators will face.

Daily Herald staff writer Kari Hartman recently talked with four teachers known for being innovative in the classroom about what keeps them going and what they deal with each day.

Kermit Eby teaches advanced placement American history and social studies at Naperville North High School. Elaine Modine teaches freshman honors biology and genetics classes at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora. Stuart Vance is a second-grade teacher at Spring Brook Elementary School in Naperville. Jane Hester teaches gifted social science and language arts at Lisle's Kennedy Junior High School.

How do you bring new ideas into the classroom? How are you creative and fresh year after year?

Elaine Modine: I think for myself it's a passion I have for the course I teach. I feel a personal commitment to make it cutting edge for students, and because I feel so passionate about it, I just get as excited about it as the kids do.

I try to bring whatever's out there and make it as relevant to them as possible.

So I think when you teach something you have a passion for like that, you find ways to keep yourself current and you're always wanting to change. You don't want to be stagnant in your teaching.

Jane Hester: I feel, too, that we're competing with the video world and the fast technology world, so it's always a challenge to stay competitive with the visual input they have at home, so that kind of keeps me current.

I kind of was nicknamed "the graduate queen" because I've taken so many courses just because there's so many good things out there to find ways to innovate in your classroom. And the kids keep coming to us with better and better skills technology-wise, so my goal is to keep up with them.

Stuart Vance: With the younger ones, too, having the flexibility, if we have a great curriculum, to follow it. But at the same time we have the flexibility, if they're interested in something, to take off and go on a side tangent for awhile.

That's where they get excited and, depending on the interest of the kids, that tells you which tangent you're going to go off on, which areas of interest you're going to delve into deeper.

That's what makes it really exciting, because you don't know what's going to interest them from year to year. It's totally different depending on the mixture of the group.

Hester: You can never have the same lesson plan.

Kermit Eby: I think we've all been around it long enough to see we go through certain cycles of reform, depending upon what the bureaucracies want us to do, and yet we keep coming back to the essence of how to communicate with the kids and giving them a voice.

And so I guess one way I enriched my personal life was listening to the kids and seeing what they need. So when we organized the multicultural club, it was because Naperville was changing and when we started the Gay-Straight Alliance it was because kids came to me and they advocated it.

With the last presidential election, I was teaching government so we did a mock election and we did things we've been doing for generations to keep their interest and, for history, it's easy to bring current events into it.

On the other hand, I have to prepare the kids for college boards so I have a set curriculum, but I also have to allow them to become empowered with it.

There's like an old school/new school. Because the old school was note-taking/homework and mine is debate, essays, outside material and it's all about centering it on their research skills and their analytical skills, their critical thinking. …

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