One Good Question…The Best Educators Are…

One Good Question is a new column for The Teacher And The Admin. This series is an effort to get insight from those we admire in the Education field. Two weeks, we asked our panel of education leaders about advice they would give the year one version of themselves. Last week, we asked about change. This week, we ask them about what makes a great educator. Our panel includes Evan Robb, an author, Middle School Principal, and education speaker. Robb is the author of The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook and for the acclaimed Robb Review Blog and Podcast.  Dr. Todd Whitaker is one of the leading presenters in the field of education and author of numerous books including What Great Teachers Do Differently and Your First Year. Laura Sweeney is the Literacy and Curriculum Specialist for the North Rockland Central School District, a large and diverse school district just 30 miles north of New York City.

Angela Stockman is an International Literacy Consultant working. The author of Hacking The Writing Workshop and Make Writing, Ms. Stockman not only works with Teachers to improve writing instruction, she also works with kids of all ages. Starr Sackstein is a National Board Certified Teacher who has authored numerous books including Hacking Homework and Hacking Assessment. Amaris Scalia is the Assistant Principal of Haverstraw Elementary School, a grade 4 to 6 building in the North Rockland Central School District. More information about our panel can be found at the conclusion of the column.

For this week’s question, we have asked six outstanding leaders in the field to share their thoughts.

The characteristics of the best educators are…

Evan Robb (@ERobbPrincipal)

Great educators are lifelong learners who have an ever-developing knowledge of curriculum, instructional methods, and the ability to cultivate positive, trusting relationships with students.  In tandem with this knowledge and equally important is personal efficacy along with the ability to approach any problem with a growth mindset. Great educators also believe they can make a difference for every child, every day.  

I have never met a great educator who is a negative person, but every outstanding educator I have met has a positive outlook about teaching and learning. In addition, disrupting the status quo by using reflection about best practice are also characteristics defining excellent educators.  Finally, an endless belief and faith in the capabilities of children enables them to prepare students for a future they cannot perfectly predict or define.

Todd Whitaker (@ToddWhitaker)

Caring. They treat every student and adult with respect and dignity every single day.  They accurately self-reflect. The best educators care and try 10 days out of 10.

Laura Sweeney (@laurasweeney716)

The best educators are always compassionate, excellent listeners, and forever learners.

Angela Stockman (@AngelaStockman)

The characteristics of the best educators are curiosity, humility, courage, and resilience.

Starr Sackstein (@mssackstein)

The best educators are creative, thoughtful, flexible, compassionate, knowledgeable, model a growth-mindset and listen to students. The best educators don’t let ego run their classrooms, instead, they collaborate with their peers and students and they are constantly learning and taking risks to make for better learning experiences.

Amaris Scalia (@AmarisScalia)

The best educators at their core are kind and compassionate. The best educators never forget that we are in it for the kids. We are working with people, little and big. We need to connect with others and empathize with them- kindness and compassion are necessary. The best educators are also thoughtful. They do not rush to make decisions, but rather look at it from all perspectives and seek out opposing views to make the best decision possible for kids.

Listening is also a key skill that the best educators do well. Sometimes there is too much talking and not enough listening. Listening allows for people to express their feelings while feeling heard and validated. The final characteristic the best educators must have is positivity. Positivity is contagious, so is negativity. The best educators spread positivity because they know it is essential for a healthy learning environment.

About The Panel

Evan Robb

Author, principal & speaker, Evan Robb is Principal of Johnson Williams Middle School in Clarke County, VA.  Evan is a committed educator, progressive thinker, author, speaker, and fitness enthusiast. He is particularly interested in 21st-century learning, active student engagement, and using social media to reach parents and his community.  Please explore The Robb Review Blog and Scholastic EDU for more of his thoughts on teaching, learning, and leadership.  The Robb Review Blog is focused on looking ahead, not looking back. Evan also has a podcast, The Robb Review Podcast. Evan is also the author of The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook (Scholastic, 2007).  Follow Evan on Twitter here: @ERobbPrincipal and on Facebook.

Dr. Todd Whitaker

Dr. Todd Whitaker has been fortunate to be able to blend his passion with his career. Recognized as a leading presenter in the field of education, his message about the importance of teaching has resonated with hundreds of thousands of educators around the world. Todd is a professor of educational leadership at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, and he has spent his life pursuing his love of education by researching and studying effective teachers and principals. For more information on where to obtain Dr. Whitaker’s writing, visit his website, toddwhitaker.com

Laura Sweeney

Daughter, Wife and, Mother of four awesome kids! Sweeney is the K-6 Literacy and Curriculum Specialist for the North Rockland Central School District. During her tenure, she has overseen the rewriting of ELA curriculum for the elementary level, was a key member of the team that developed standards based report cards for the district, and has led numerous staff development initiatives throughout the district. 

Angela Stockman

A proud Buffalonian, Angela Stockman is an international literacy consultant.  She spends each week day learning with young writers and the teachers who love them and each weekend feathering her rapidly emptying nest. She enjoys traveling with her husband and trips to the beach with Remington, their Labrador retriever puppy. SHe loves swimming, barking at inanimate objects, and eating twenty dollar bills.

Ask her about her InstantPot.

For more information about Angela and her thoughts about teaching writing, visit her website: angelastockman.com.

Starr Sackstein

Starr Sackstein started her teaching career at Far Rockaway High School more than 14 years ago. She spent nine years as a high school English and journalism teacher at World Journalism Preparatory School in Flushing, New York, where her students ran the multimedia news outlet WJPSnews.com. She is a certified Master Journalism Educator through the Journalism Education Association (JEA) and serves at the New York State Director to JEA to help advisers in New York better grow journalism programs.

Sackstein is the author of several books, including Teaching Students to Self-Assess: How Do I Help Students Grow as Learners? (ASCD Arias).

She blogs on Education Week Teacher at “Work in Progress” where she discusses all aspects of being a teacher and education reform. She was named one of ASCD’s Emerging Leaders Class of 2016.

Amaris Scalia

Boymom of 2, wife, educator. Scalia currently serves as the Assistant Principal at Haverstraw Elementary School, a grades 4-6 building in the North Rockland Central School District. Prior to her serving as an Assistant Principal, Scalia was the North Rockland Central School District’s Curriculum Implementation Specialist and coordinated the curriculum revision to align with the Common Core.