Teachers are, as a breed, an inspiring bunch and the dedication they show to their vocation is, often, truly astounding. Below are five stories about amazing teachers who have gone beyond the call of duty for their students.
1) Vivian Moutafian, Teacher of the Year Making Maths Fun — Vivian Moutafian, of Watsonville High School, was recently honored with a Teacher of the Year award from the California League of High Schools, Region 5, for the commitment she has shown to ensuring kids in her classes are never without help when it comes to math lessons.
Every break and after school Moutafian keeps her classroom open so that students can gather and work through math problems with Moutafian’s guidance. Reports say Moutafian believes her students give her life meaning, and that she “loves” when she and her pupils are stumped by a question and have to work together to solve it. She is described as being of the opinion that, despite teaching for 32 years, she still believes that teaching is something you never master and a job in which you are constantly learning.
2) Mitchell Drage, Principal — Mitchell Drage is a passionate aboriginal leader in education, using his role at Nullagine Remote Community School in Pilbara, Australia to being a visible person of aboriginal descent for his aboriginal pupils — this because Australia has a disproportionately low number of aboriginal teachers even in schools like Drage’s where aboriginal children are the majority.
Drage’s commitment to his students has earned him wide praise and government recognition. For instance, should students fail to turn up for class, Drage personally calls up their parents and will make home visits and more to try and find solutions for whatever problems the kids may be having — anything to get those children into school and make sure they are getting the highest standards of education possible to enable then to have the very best chance to progress in life.
3) Jeanne Manford, Founder of PFLAG – Care2 Causes has frequently made reference to the organization Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), but the group’s origins are perhaps less well known.
In 1972 Jeanne Manford, then a New York City grade school teacher, marched alongside her gay son, Morty, in a Pride parade, holding a sign with what was, at the time, a daring and perhaps even revolutionary message: “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for our Children.”
Manford was approached by a number of gay and lesbian people asking that she speak to their parents and spread her message of acceptance. From there her role as the mother of the straight ally movement began when, shortly after that march, she founded PFLAG and cemented her place in history as the mother who stood by her gay son and wanted to help others do the same.
Manford turned 92 earlier this December. You can read more about her life here.
4) Dyane Smokorowski, Using Video Games to Teach Language Arts – Teacher of the Year Dyane Smokorowski’s language arts class certainly isn’t your standard read the novel, write about the novel affair. No, the Andover Middle School teacher has a different approach to teaching books like “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” to her class by getting them to create a video game version of the book. In this way she involves the class in designing the characters, objects and, most importantly, learning to deconstruct important elements of Mark Twain’s work such as his use of foreshadowing and conflict.
The video games are then uploaded to the website Tom Sawyer Video Game Project 2012, meaning that others will be able to share in the results of Smokorowski’s students’ work.
Smokorowski, whose other role is that of instructional technology coach and technology professional development instructor for the district, works with teachers across Kansas, and has worked with schools across the nation, to use technology in a way that can enhance teaching and the teaching environment.
5) The Remarkable Staff at Sandy Hook — This list cannot ignore the recent and terrible Sandy Hook shootings, and although the following stories are very different from those above, it is humbling to think that across America there are remarkable teachers like those mentioned below who would not hesitate to protect the children in their care.
In the midst of the absolute horror and bereavement felt by all regarding the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, there are also stories of the school’s teachers and staff, all of whom did a remarkable job in trying to ensure the children in their care stayed safe, and some of whom gave their lives in order to try and prevent the gunman from hurting their charges.
Among them, the stories of Victoria Leigh Soto, 27, and Anne Marie Murphy, 52, shine bright.
Details have emerged that as those horrific events unfolded last Friday, Soto, a first grade teacher, instructed some of her pupils to hide in a closet as she shielded others from danger. The gunman shot and killed Soto, but her students remained safe. Soto’s name is now known across the world for this brave act.
So too with the school’s highly acclaimed Principal Dawn Hochsprung who attempted to raise the alarm when Lanza entered the school building and confronted the shooter, having her life cut short in an attempt to protect her school.
And now other names of staff are emerging with similar stories to tell, like that of Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist, who attempted to stop Lanza during his rampage, and that of Natalie Hammond who reports say was in a meeting and tried to use her body to block Lanza from entering the office, therein likely saving several of those inside. Hammond, unlike several of her colleagues, survived the shooting and is now reportedly recovering in hospital.
Another teacher to survive was Kaitlin Roig. Here is her story:
As America mourns the deep wound left by this senseless act, the nation also rings out with gratitude for these brave teachers, and all who day after day help shape and protect America’s children.
Image credit: Thinkstock.