Make That TeacherS Of The Year

By all accounts, the accolades and congratulations were well earned by Mellissa Alonso, the Valrico Elementary reading resource teacher who was named Hillsborough County’s Teacher of the Year. Good teachers can’t get enough recognition and reward. There’s no pedestal big enough for those fighting the good fight on America’s educational front lines.

But here’s a suggestion. Make one fundamental change in the award. Give out two of them. One for secondary and one for elementary.

As it now stands, the Teacher of the Year Award goes to a single recipient selected from the ranks of all teachers. For example, the 10 finalists this year were a mix of two high school, three middle and five elementary teachers.

It’s really not appropriate to name one overall winner when there’s not consistent criteria or comparable skills evaluated. Secondary teachers, for example, are much more subject-oriented than their elementary counterparts. The methodology of instruction is inherently dissimilar. And classroom management is a whole different dynamic with more mature — or at least bigger — students.

All great teachers have obvious traits in common. They love their work; they’re effective communicators; they’re adept motivators. But to be comparing, say, an outstanding 12th grade physics teacher with a gifted first grade instructor is neither fair nor valid.

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