Great educators have great stories. This series gives a glimpse of the ideas, practices, and experiences of the recipients of the NEA Foundation’s California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence. Today, we’re sharing the words of Kelly Elder, a 6th grade social studies educator at C.R. Anderson Middle School in Helena, MT.
I succeed as a teacher if my students continually question and desire to learn more, listen to and are respectful of others’ beliefs, investigate on their own accord, and then effectively formulate and share their views with others.
I bring the world into my classroom to shed light on and share aspects of foreign concepts, helping my students to discover other landscapes, societies, and cultures, as well as then tying what they have learned into their own experience. For example, when my students investigate rural decline in Mexico and the spatial inequality that exists with in the central valley, we also consider how these issues affect us here in Montana.
Watching my students embrace this process and perform, both as individuals and with peers, provides the intrinsic rewards that fuel my passion to teach. This environment empowers students to both safely share their ideas while also considering their classmates’ perspectives.
Indeed, I continue to be amazed when a student mentions a key concept like income inequality during a current events discussion months after studying the topic, and the entire class understands exactly what she means.