National Writing Project

America's Best Teachers in 2011

Publication: Spirit Magazine
Date: September 13, 2011

Summary: NWP teachers Curtis Chandler and Floris Wilma Ortiz, who both received awards as teacher of the year from their respective states, were profiled by Spirit magazine.

 

Excerpt from Article

Floris Wilma Ortiz, Massachusetts, Amherst Regional Middle School, Amherst

Why middle school?
The early adolescent years — the "rollercoaster years," I call them—are the most critical years in a student's life. Kids need a lot of love and support to gain confidence before they go to high school.

What motivates you to keep teaching?
My students. In spite of the difficulties I face every day, I wake up thinking about my students. I know every child is capable of reaching her dreams, and knowing that I can implant hope—which sometimes they have lost—is what keeps me going.

Curtis Chandler, Kansas, Wamego Middle School, Wamego

How do you take teaching outside the classroom?
A student of mine recently asked me if birds have a sense of smell. She had been told not to disturb a bird's nest at her house because the mother bird would neglect the chicks if they had been handled by a human. Rather than answering, I asked her what she thought and then challenged her to find out for herself. She decided she needed to ask a bird expert. We searched online and found an ornithologist at Cornell University, who told us that most birds do not have a well-developed olfactory sense. In my class, teachable moments are the result of daily learning structures that require students to ask questions, formulate hypotheses, and validate information.

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Read America's Best Teachers, 2011 in Spirit Magazine.

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