What makes a great teacher?

Ask 10 people what makes a great teacher and you will likely get 10 different answers. Words such as creative, committed, enthusiastic, fun, passionate and patient may be used to describe him or her. Most of us can remember at least one teacher that inspired us and made an impact on our life.

A strong teacher knows that being effective isn’t just based on a degree nor is it solely about having a dynamic personality. Good teaching requires diligence, hard work and a sincere desire to make a difference in each student’s life. Great teachers all have several things in common:

They set big goals for their students and motivate them to learn by encouraging hard work through fun, engaging activities.

They make certain every is keeping up and are constantly reevaluating their effectiveness in teaching.

They maintain their students’ focus and manage good behavior with clear rules and consequences while keeping open communication with families.

They connect with other educators to help meet the unique needs of each and every child.

Amid all the talk of the Governor’s Education Reform Package which includes raising the minimum salary for new teachers and creating new “career pathways” that offer additional pay for teachers who take on leadership and mentoring roles, it is clear that the focus of reform has shifted to include teacher accountability.

The Branstad-Reynolds Administration proposal would establish a web-based employment system for education. The hiring decision would remain with the school districts but would allow for recruiting nationally to find top-notch teachers. The proposal would raise standards for entry into teaching programs and require that teachers be evaluated annually rather than via the current three-year cycle. Finally, the probationary period for new teachers would be extended to five years, giving schools more time in which to judge how effective the educator is.

Governor Branstad’s reform calls for Iowa’s nine Area Education Agencies (AEAs) to focus on providing a statewide network of professional development for educators. The Department of Education would target areas needed for development and AEAs would create plans to address those areas.

Area Education Agency 267 (AEA 267), as well as the state AEA system as a whole, is poised to play a key role in reform – in fact, support for educators has been one of our “signature” services for nearly 40 years. Last year alone, AEA 267 offered more than 400 professional development courses to over 6,300 local educators.

As the reform discussion unfolds, Iowa’s AEAs will play a significant role in supporting great teaching in our state. For more information about AEA services, visit www.aea267.k12.ia.us.

Julie Davies is the Director of Educational Services with Area Education Agency 267 based out of Cedar Falls. Julie can be reached at 319-273-8260. Agency 267 serves over 65,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.