Opinion
Education Opinion

How Great Teachers Are Thinking Outside the Classroom to Help Students Learn

By Contributing Blogger — May 10, 2019 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By Bob Gogel, the CEO of WorldStrides, an educational travel and experiential-learning organization

Teacher Appreciation Week provides an opportunity for all of us to pause and think about the many ways that educators have made, and continue to make, important contributions to our learning and to our lives.

Today’s teachers are tasked with providing greater and more personalized attention to students in ever-larger classes, with fewer resources. Their classrooms are increasingly diverse, but their responsibilities remain the same: to ensure that all students have access to the learning opportunities that will help them be successful as students and throughout their lives.

This Teacher Appreciation Week, we ought to do more than just appreciate teachers. We should make an effort to understand what obstacles they face—and the creative ways that some teachers are approaching the work of meeting the needs of every student in their class. A teacher’s classroom is filled with a broad range of skills, interests, and prior knowledge. Their work is not just about presenting information to the typical students in an interesting way; it’s about understanding and trying to meet many different needs at once so that all students have a chance to succeed. The best teachers go beyond the traditional framework of schooling to find and deploy all kinds of resources in creative ways to reach this goal.

Dedicated teachers think outside of traditional classroom walls, books, computers, and curriculum. They leverage experiences, whether in or out of school, to build knowledge and skills—not to mention confidence. They connect students with the community and the larger world in ways that open their eyes to the learning opportunities around them. Through persistence and ingenuity, great teachers close the gap between what their classroom provides and what their students need. Over the past four years, we’ve recognized teachers who, through persistence and ingenuity, are closing the gap between the opportunities available within a traditional classroom and the vast potential for learning that can occur when great teachers think beyond school walls.

Among them this year is Holly Grefe, who has taught choir in Lafayette, La., for 24 years. Ms. Grefe does more than teach her students how to sing. Parents say they have seen their children, through Ms. Grefe’s teaching, transform from self-conscious 9th graders to confident performers—and young adults—beaming with purpose. Students in Chelsea Roidt’s Latin class, in Lancaster, Ohio, tell a similar story. Ms. Roidt, her students say, goes beyond teaching a language, incorporating life lessons into her class that help students better grasp what they’re learning while also better preparing them for life after graduation.

Lynn Bourinaris, a culinary educator at New Jersey’s Sussex County Technical School, works to provide her students with a taste of the world that exists beyond the walls of their high school. Ms. Bourinaris frequently takes her students on trips to experience the culinary history and culture of Europe. Back home, she incorporates real-world training and experiences into her lessons, preparing her students to pursue their careers, their culinary passions, or both.

And then there is Gina Englund of Mobile, Ala. For years, Ms. Englund worked to support students with varied learning needs as they struggled in a traditional school setting. Each year, students entered her classroom well below grade level. Many of these students had dyslexia and other learning difficulties. She watched as, despite her best efforts, those struggling 1st graders left her classroom and continued to struggle through middle school and high school. Many did not make it to graduation. Ms. Englund became convinced that these students required a different kind of learning environment if they were to succeed. She decided to found Bright Beginnings, a new kind of school that helps students with dyslexia access their full potential and overcome the many learning barriers often present in a traditional classroom. Today, she provides more than 40 students with the environment they need to become confident, engaged learners.

These stories surround us. Educators deserve our gratitude for their work helping students grow not just as Latin learners, singers, or 1st graders, but as humans. At a time when the number of people applying to open teaching positions is sharply declining, and when more than 40 percent of new teachers are leaving the profession within five years, these teachers serve as an inspiration. Their tenacity, creativity, and commitment to going above and beyond traditional teaching provides a valuable lesson to teachers who—despite the overwhelming demands of their job—are still seeking new ways to design better learning experiences for their students.

Let us keep celebrating these teachers. And let’s keep telling their stories, not only during Teacher Appreciation Week, but all year-round.

The opinions expressed in Next Gen Learning in Action are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP
Education Massachusetts National Guard to Help With Busing Students to School
250 guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans, as districts nationwide struggle to hire enough drivers.
1 min read
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, activated the state's National Guard to help with busing students to school as districts across the country struggle to hire enough drivers.
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass.
Michael Dwyer/AP
Education FDA: ‘Very, Very Hopeful’ COVID Shots Will Be Ready for Younger Kids This Year
Dr. Peter Marks said he is hopeful that COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end. Maybe sooner.
4 min read
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021. On Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, Marks urged parents to be patient, saying the agency will rapidly evaluate vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds as soon as it gets the needed data.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021.
Jim Lo Scalzo/AP