MPS 2012-13 Teacher of the Year
Will Rogers Middle School
6 & Pre-Ap 8 English & Yearbook
Years in Present Position 4
Total Years of Experience 17
MSSU 1992-1994 BSE Elem. Ed.-Magna Cum Laude
NEO A & M College 1990-1992 AA in Education-Summa Cum Laude
EMPLOYMENT RECORD OF SERVICE
Miami Public Schools
WRMS English/World Studies/Reading/Media/Yearbook 2008-2012 Rockdale 5th-All Subjects 2003-2008 WRMS 6th-Geography 2001-2003 Nichols 5th-All Subjects 1997-2001 Roosevelt 5th-All Subjects 1995-1997
1. What are your personal feelings and beliefs about teaching? Describe how they are demonstrated in your personal teaching style?
This I believe...."Students don't care what you know until they know that you care." Teaching from this premise, it is my first and foremost goal to establish a personal connection with my students. I believe I have to become aware of not only their academic needs, but their social, emotional, environmental and cultural needs as well. Once this connection is cemented, I can better reach students I teach. Believing that all students can learn, I structure my classroom and teaching style so that can take place. My personal teaching style is reflected in a highly organized, structured classroom which lends itself to effective instruction. Students encounter high expectations and standards when they enter our classroom and, in most cases, rise to meet those challenges. Preperation for engaging students in meaningful educational experiences is one of my strong points. I am confident in my subject content knowledge and seeking new ways of conveying that knowledge is a pastime I truly enjoy. Students today demand an engaging environment simply because of the world they are growing up in. It is a challenge to find that "hook" and "carrot" for each student. No longer can we just hope our students leave our classroom with the knowledge they need to succeed in the workplace and beyond. The stakes are much higher now and my accountability to ensure that all students are equipped to succeed is at a much more visible level. Finding the balance in the teaching profession between a personal and professional life is something I struggle with. I love what I do and am doing what I love. How many other people can say that about their line of work? "When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece."(Ruskin) I strive to be a masterful teacher of students who have mastered the subject matter I teach. At the end of the day, I want my past, current and future students to remember Mrs. Witten as a teacher who cared, who challenged them to be the best they could be, who encouraged them to try harder than they thought they could and engaged them in learning experiences that mattered. Quoting from a story written by a former student, "The teacher is to the students what rain is to the field." The students who leave my classroom are the fruit of the labor and it is my desire to watch them grow in a fertile field.
2. What do you consider to be a major public education issue today and how would you like to see it resolved?
Testing is a major public education issue today and I would like to see it abolished! I agree with Professor James Popham when he says, "One of the most frightening things about the preoccupation of raising test scores is the message it sends to children about what's important in school. Rather than trying to make the classroom a learning environment where exciting new things are required, the classroom becomes a drill factory, where relentless pressure, practice on test items, may raise test scores -- but may end up having children hate school." I am not saying we don't need some type of accountability, but mandated testing our children is not the answer. Our objective should be to help them LOVE to LEARN. Politicians and policymakers, many of whom have no background knowledge of how children learn, have reduced our schools, teachers and students to a meaningless number. I often tell my students "to walk in someone else's shoes before you pass judgment on them." I challenge our politicians and policymakers to do the same. Let educators do their jobs and the success will outshine any mandated test score.
3. Identify a program initiative to increase student learning that you have participated and explain why you think it has been successful?
I participated in the Student Learning Cadre this year and believe strengthening student engagement in the classroom to be the most important thing teachers can do for their students. I was challenged to take the ideas presented, use them in my classroom, have a colleague observe and then share my experiences with the cadre. By becoming more of a facilitator my students excelled as they began to engage more and more with the content. As they created and presented their lessons to their peers over the unit concepts, the excitement began to build. They loved working in cooperative groups and doing projects together. I began to see how to change my teaching. They were showing me how they learn best! They often ask, "When do we get to do our next project?" I ask them time and time again, "How does this relate to your life and the real world?" Their answers surprised me, they were able to tie every concept to their life in one way or another. Many in ways I had never thought of myself. Now when planning lessons I try to think about what is going to make this lesson more meaningful and engaging for them.