Education Spirit = Teacher of the Year

“Olympic Spirit strives to inspire and motivate the youth of the world to be the best they can be through educational and entertaining interactive challenges.”

The Winter Olympic Games have ended but I am still thinking about what the spirit of the competition means to the athletes. It is much like what education and what educators work to do for their students.

We have a hard-working amazing cadre of AIMS Facilitators that continually make a difference in the lives of children while instilling educational spirit in them. Facilitator Elizabeth McDaniel is a Florida middle school educator for the Okaloosa County School District and was recently honored as the Shoal River Middle School Teacher of the Year. I learned from her that Okaloosa County fellow teachers nominate the teachers of the year. Each faculty member gets a vote, and this year five teachers were nominated. Elizabeth got 54% of the votes. This is not the first time she has received such an honor. Elizabeth’s sixteen years in the classroom have been in four different schools and districts and she has been chosen as the teacher of the year at some point at all four. She is proud of that and rightly so.

I asked Elizabeth a few questions and I wanted to share her answers:

If you could share just one thought with fellow teachers, what would it be?

I truly believe that teaching if the most important profession. We change lives. Sometimes, unfortunately, that change is not always for the better so the responsibility to only have a positive influence on our students weighs on our shoulders and can be intense. That is why it is so important to lean on your colleagues. Great teachers become great through collaboration.

What is your No. 1 highlight in teaching?

The realization that I am never going to be perfect. I am a perfectionist. The fact that I can teach the same lesson five times a day and it can go five different ways used to drive me crazy. (I loved when things got better, but when a lesson went of track, I was devastated.) After sixteen years of teaching, I know that I will never know everything or have all the answers because teaching is not a static profession. It changes from year to year, day to day, and student to student. It is okay to not be perfect. It is not okay to be complacent. I continue to learn and strive for excellence because I know when I fall short that is an opportunity for growth.

For new teachers coming into the profession, what advice would you offer them?

Don’t take yourself too seriously. I constantly tell my students that it is not my job to teach them what to think, but to teach them how to think. It is important for them to see me as a learner as well. It is good for them to see me struggle with material. It is wonderful for them to see me make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. I am not supposed to be perfect. I am human, so I am fallible. It is how they see me deal with outcomes that I am most interested in modeling. So, don’t be afraid to let them see your humanity.

What do you want students to say as they leave your classroom each day?

I love when other teachers jokingly say that the lesson in my class disrupted their class because the students still wanted to discuss or debate what went on that day. Learning is not contained to the four walls of my class. I want kids to keep talking when they leave me. I also love when the bell rings and someone says “No, we just got here.”

Congratulations Elizabeth. Keep on instilling the educational spirit!

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One Response to Education Spirit = Teacher of the Year

  1. I am so proud of her! I know her well and she truly emulates what a great teacher should be. Well done Elizabeth.

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