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.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Students arriving off the bus get in line to score some waffles during a free pancake and waffle breakfast at Lowell Elementary School on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
800 free pancakes at Everett’s Lowell Elementary feed the masses

The annual breakfast was started to connect the community and the school, as well as to get people to interact.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks at the groundbreaking event for the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$123M project starting on Highway 529 interchange, I-5 HOV lane

A reader wondered why the highway had a lane closure despite not seeing work done. Crews were waiting on the weather.

Justin Bell was convicted earlier this month of first-degree assault for a December 2017 shooting outside a Value Village in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Court: Snohomish County jurors’ opaque masks didn’t taint verdict

During the pandemic, Justin Bell, 32, went on trial for a shooting. Bell claims his right to an impartial jury was violated.

Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

Will Steffener
Inslee appoints Steffener as Superior Court judge

Attorney Will Steffener will replace Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, who is retiring in June.

News logo for use with stories about Mill Creek in Snohomish County, WA.
Police: Mill Creek man fatally stabbed wife amid financial woes

After quitting his job at Amazon, the man amassed about $50,000 in debt, triggering a discussion about finances, he told police.

Outside of the current Evergreen Recovery Centers' housing to treat opioid-dependent moms with their kids on Thursday, May 25, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$8M in behavioral health grants to benefit children, youth, families

Snohomish County awarded one-time federal funding to five projects that will reach at least 440 new people each year.

Cooper Cummings from the United States celebrates after winning a men's downhill during the Cheese Rolling contest at Cooper's Hill in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, Monday May 29, 2023. The Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake is an annual event where participants race down the 200-yard (180 m) long hill chasing a wheel of double gloucester cheese. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Arlington High School grad is the big cheese after winning UK race

Cooper Cummings, who grew up in Lake Stevens, defeated a world record-holder in Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake.

Marysville firefighters respond to a 12-year-old boy who fell down a well Tuesday May 30, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
Marysville firefighters save boy who fell 20 feet into well

The 12-year-old child held himself up by grabbing on to a plastic pipe while firefighters worked to save him.

Most Read