Guest Blog by Education Secretary Mark Murphy
Great teaching is a key factor to great student learning. There’s a lot to debate in education today, but that’s a fact to which researchers, policymakers, educators, parents and students can agree.
We have many amazing educators working in our public schools across the state. You probably know those who deserve recognition for their passion for teaching and dedication to students’ success.
Every fall it is our great honor at the Delaware Department of Education to highlight some of these exemplary educators, including one nominated from each of the state’s 19 school districts. On Tuesday, we also named one of them as the 2013 Delaware Teacher of the Year: Sussex Tech’s John Sell.
Sell, an English teacher, is in his 22nd year in the classroom. I especially like how his colleague, English content specialist D.J. Forcucci, described his gift for teaching:
“It isn’t about his content knowledge, although he could quote any poem written in the last two centuries, and it isn’t about his pedagogy, although he memorized the Common Core standards in a day,” Forcucci said. “It is about his innate charisma. It is about his ability to connect with students so naturally and on so many levels that they seek him out on the days they don’t have him just to say hi.
“It is about his ability to make students run to his class and audibly moan in disappointment outside his door on the rare occasion that there is a substitute in the room. And it is about his ability to make his students and his peers better through their experiences with him,” Forcucci said.
Sell, 44, also is known at his Georgetown school for his use of technology to connect with students and parents. He was the first Sussex Tech teacher to use online instructional activities and assessments in his daily instruction. Because part of his teaching philosophy is that curricula need to be easily accessible to students, he uploaded all of his course materials for student access in and out of school.
And when he is eating dinner with his wife, Michelle, an English teacher in the Caesar Rodney School District, and two young sons and his smart phone buzzes to alert him of an email from a student needing help or clarification, he will answer soon. He may be out of school at the time, but he believes teachers needs to be easily accessible to students, too.
Sell, who earned a Bachelor of Science in English education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction from Delaware State University, is completing a doctorate in educational leadership from Northcentral University. As the 49th Delaware Teacher of the Year, he now will be the state’s nominee for the National Teacher of the Year competition.
Sell wasn’t the only one honored Tuesday night, though. Delaware teachers, representing each of the state’s 19 school districts, were nominated by their districts during the 2012 calendar year because of their superior ability to inspire students with a love of learning, exemplary demonstration of professional traits and strong sense of dedication and devotion to teaching.
I enjoyed honoring all of them on Tuesday, and I am enjoying learning from them as well during my monthly meetings with current and past teachers of the year. As we dig into topics — such as at our most recent meeting, teacher development — I’ve appreciated hearing their insights on what in the system is working well, what needs improvement and how we could make those changes. By participating in these meetings, even after their year of distinction is complete, their insights will continue to inform our efforts to support and strengthen our teaching profession as we strive toward continued improvements in student achievement.
It is my honor to introduce to you to the 2013 district teachers of the year.