New school year, new challenge for teacher of year

Minnesota’s Teacher of the Year, Jackie Roehl, was excited to enter her classroom for the 15th year at Edina High School Tuesday, Sept. 4.

She’s excited, because she and her fellow English teachers are trying a new strategy of teaching 120 sophomores an enriched English curriculum.

Trying something new excites her, and she suggests that all teachers find something new to make a difference in teaching their students.

Of course this is no ordinary year for her. In November she will compete for National Teacher-of-the-Year honors, when the list of state winners will be narrowed to four.

She’s just come back from the Minnesota State Fair where she met visitors and answered questions, in addition to being interviewed alongside State Commissioner of Education Dr. Brenda Cassellius.

Roehl cautions parents not to compare what and how they were taught to the different world of today.

“Just being able to recite ‘Canterbury Tales’ as she did in her high school English class won’t cut it these days, she says. Today’s students are using content from the Internet and thinking more about social issues.

Do the computer programs help students write better? Roehl says they help students because writing on a computer is so flexible. You can move ideas around and change things easily.

What’s more, you don’t have to go through the frustration of starting over on a new piece of paper if you make a mistake.

Roehl continues to ask parents to trust their teachers who are using the new technology to teach and develop information.

And one more thing. Roehl still doesn’t have that special parking place she humorously wished for at Edina High School, as a perk for her state title. The staff kidded about that, but so far there is no special place to park, even for a day.

It’s sort of keeping with what the life of a teacher is all about. Most teachers prefer to be recognized for successfully teaching every student the best they can up to their ability. They live in a world where all staff are important and consider themselves teachers of the year.

As for Roehl, her reward will come from her team successfully teaching enriched English to all of her 120 sophomore students. — Don Heinzman, ECM Publishers

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