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Virginia Journal of Education


Your Classroom

What to Strive For In Your Teaching Practice

What defines excellence in teaching? Check yourself against these qualities of outstanding work in the classroom, adapted from and used with the permission of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (

Teachers are committed to students and their learning and:
• are dedicated to making knowledge accessible to all students;
• recognize students’ individual differences and take these differences into account in their teaching;
• understand how students develop and learn;
• incorporate the prevailing theories of cognition and intelligence in their practice;
• are aware of the influence of context and culture on behavior;
• foster students’ self-esteem, motivation, character, civic responsibility and their respect for individual, cultural, religious and racial differences.

Teachers know the subjects they teach, how to teach those subjects to students and:
• have a rich understanding of the subject(s) they teach;
• develop the critical and analytical capacities of their students;
• command specialized knowledge of how to convey and reveal subject matter to students;
• understand where difficulties are likely to arise and modify their practice accordingly.

Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning and:
• create, enrich, maintain and alter instructional settings to capture and sustain the interest of their students;
• engage groups of students to ensure a disciplined learning environment;
• encourage interacting among students and between students and teachers;
• understand how to motivate students and maintain their interest in learning even in the face to temporary failure;
• employ multiple methods for measuring student growth and can clearly explain student performance to parents.

Teachers think systematically about their practice, learn from experience and:
• exemplify the virtues they seek to inspire in students: curiosity, tolerance, honesty, fairness, respect for diversity and appreciation of cultural differences;
• make principled judgments about sound practice;
• examine their practice, seek to expand their repertoire, deepen their knowledge and adapt their teaching to new research and theories.

Teachers are members of learning communities and:
• work collaboratively with other professionals on instructional policy, curriculum development and staff development;
• evaluate school progress and the allocation of school resources;
• know about school and community resources and can employ them for students’ benefit;
• find ways to work collaboratively and creatively with parents, productively engaging them in the work of the school.

What Are Your
Biggest Challenges?

The U.S. Department of Education and the NEA Foundation have launched a new way for public school educators to help identify and solve the schools’ most pressing classroom challenges.
The U.S. DOE’s “Open Invitation Portal” is now hosting the NEA Foundation’s Challenge to Innovate (C2i).

C2i is a collaborative Web community where educators can highlight areas of need, propose solutions, and fund and implement those solutions. In just the short time since launch, the portal has been joined by more than 5,000 members who have posted several hundred ideas to improve education.

To become part of C2i, go to

Contest Asks Students
to Imagine New Technology

ExploraVision, an annual contest offering K-12 students a chance to exercise both their skills and their imaginations, encourages young people to come up with a future technology that might solve a current problem. Students enter the competition in teams, headed by a teacher/coach, and may end up hooked on science and technology. Teachers get an inviting way to teach and motivate. Savings bonds, camcorders and other prizes are available.

Deadline for entries to the contest, which is sponsored by Toshiba and the National Science Teachers Association, is February 2, 2011. For full details, visit

Richmond’s Holocaust Museum
Offers Teacher Institute

My family wondered, “Why in the world are you giving up a week of your summer to take a class on genocide and the Holocaust?” I know I will share life lessons I learned with students for years. Another reason is that in this very challenging economy, I found the class offered at the Virginia Holocaust Museum an incredible bargain with a tuition cost of only $100 for a three-credit graduate course.

I met educators from all over the state from a variety of disciplines. The experience was greatly enriched by the diversity of the participants and their specific areas of expertise. It was intense and demanding but it was worth it.

The Virginia Holocaust Museum is located in Richmond and the parking is free. Out-of-town participants can also get a special deal on rooms at the University of Richmond, a partner in the course. Bag lunches were even packed for the participants.

The Teacher Education Institute (TEI) is a six-day course, taught by museum staff, including university and classroom educators and researchers. TEI assists history, English/language arts, music, art, science, math and foreign language teachers and administrators with their understanding of the Holocaust and modern genocide and the application of it within their classrooms and schools. It also considers the Virginia Standards of Learning requirements as well as those of the Holocaust Education bill recently passed by the General Assembly.

For more information, go to: There are also some great resources on the website which you can use even if you haven’t taken the course.

--by Susan Robertson, a member of the Hanover Education Association and a counselor for elementary, middle and high school students



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