Lessons from a teaching hall of famer

Elementary school teacher Debra Howell learned this week that she will be the third teacher in the state to be inducted into The National Teachers Hall of Fame.

Howell, 49, has more than 26 years of teaching experience with the Granite Falls School District. She began teaching at Monte Cristo Elementary in 1993 and currently teaches a multi-age class of fourth, fifth and sixth graders. The National Teachers Hall of Fame, in Emporia, Kan., was founded in 1989 to honor elementary and secondary teachers. Howell is one of five teachers across the country who will be inducted in June.

The Herald asked Howell a few questions about her teaching style, expectations of herself and parental involvement.

Q: How do you keep kids engaged in your classroom?

A: I keep my students engaged by keeping a strong varied pace and by staying energized and making learning as relevant as possible to them. I try to make learning come alive for each student. I know that not everything I present will excite them but I hope to spark their interest every day in something. Also I know it is critical that I show them through my words and actions that what I am teaching is important.

Q: What can parents do to help their child succeed at school?

A: Parents can help their child succeed by staying in contact with the schools. Know what is happening, what concepts are being taught, and who your child’s teacher is. Contact the teacher when you have questions, concerns or positive comments to put forth. Ask questions. Stay involved. Let your child know that you know what is going on and that you support the schools in their efforts. Know your child’s friends and where they are going before and after school, who they talk to and who they text. Make it your priority and then the kids will make school their priority.

Q: What should parents expect from their child’s teacher?

A: Parents should expect their child’s teacher to be knowledgeable in their subject areas and know how to teach those subjects to children. Parents should expect teachers to create a safe and respectful environment where their kids can learn and grow and thrive.

Q: What do you expect of your students by the end of the school year?

A: I expect my students to have increased focus and depth in learning, grow in academic as well as social areas, and increase their ability to be positive contributing members of society. Since I have each group of my students for three years I expect them to have learned study skills, organizational skills, how to work in small and larger group settings and how to be their own best teacher. My students need to be the one in charge of their own learning.

Q: What do you think makes your teaching style successful?

A: I believe that what I do each day for the kids truly makes a difference. I try to think systematically about the manner in which I deliver information to the children both verbally and nonverbally. They pick up on my energy and excitement. I think I am able to engage the kids and move them from one place to another by adjusting my instruction to their needs at that particular moment. My students know I respect and care deeply for them and most importantly, that I hold the bar high for each one because if I do not they will never achieve the kind of success that is possible for them.

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; adaybert@heraldnet.com.

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