The Story of Two Terrific Teachers

dr. carter thank you

We all know great teachers. They come in early and stay late; they coach sports, moderate activities, grade papers over the weekend; and they still find time to prepare and lead professional development efforts. Great teachers are dynamic presences in schools and they are never far from their students.

As the CEO and Executive Director of ASCD and a former school superintendent, I have had the distinct pleasure to know many terrific teachers who have inspired students both through their teaching and as a role model. But two teachers stand out in my mind as notable examples for educators everywhere. I believe we must tell the stories of the good teachers we know so that everyone appreciates their effect on our society. So I’d like to take a moment to tell you about Ryan Twentey and Liliana Aguas.

Ryan Twentey is a photography teacher at the Baltimore County Public Schools’ (BCPS) Parkville High School in Baltimore, Md. Twentey encourages his students to persevere in their artwork, and his photography and multimedia students earn an impressive 100 percent pass rate for advanced placement tests.

Twentey also produces tutorials that enable students to learn at their own pace. These tutorials are tailored to each student’s needs, and Twentey helps draw clear correlations between the work in the classroom and how learning will translate into careers in the real world. Twentey creates a safe classroom where students can grow together by providing feedback and critique in a supportive environment.

Beyond the classroom, Twentey has worked on several special projects for the BCPS system, contributing to the creation of the interactive media production, photography, digital media design, and mass communications curricula. He has also worked with the Community College of Baltimore County to ensure that BCPS students are prepared for portfolio reviews that will earn them college credit for their high school programs.

Another great teacher is Liliana Aguas, a 2nd grade dual-language immersion teacher at Leconte Elementary School in Berkeley, Calif. Aguas is committed to educating the whole child by promoting a genuine sense of community where students learn cooperatively, are intellectually challenged, and have their learning needs met through differentiated instruction. Aguas’s students participate in activities that promote self-discovery, such as creative writing, reader’s theater, and multicultural literature exploration. Aguas also creates a classroom environment that promotes student discovery of surrounding culture, bilingualism, and social justice.

Aguas’s classroom is a living environment designed for project-based learning with a native plant garden and a tadpole and caterpillar habitat. Recently, Aguas held an international fair for her students and parents with poster presentations and a potluck, featuring dishes and music from the different countries the students researched. Aguas establishes strong partnerships with her students’ families and hosts “cafecitos,” or coffee time, with her Spanish-speaking parents.

Ryan Twentey and Liliana Aguas are just two examples of the tremendous teachers that are working in classrooms across the globe.. I feel blessed to work with teachers like Ryan and Liliana. And to all teachers everywhere, let me be one of many on Teacher Appreciation Day to say thank you! Thank you for all you do for our students each and every day.

Do you know a great teacher? Tell us about them in the comments.

Dr. Gene R. Carter is a veteran educator with experience as a private and public school teacher, public school administrator, superintendent of schools, and university professor. Before joining ASCD in 1992, Dr. Carter served for nine years as the superintendent of schools in Norfolk, Va., where he succeeded in reducing the dropout rate, built partnership programs with the private sector, implemented a districtwide school improvement program, established an early education center for 3-year-olds and their parents, and implemented a regional scholarship foundation for public school students. He has written numerous articles and book chapters concentrating on educational issues and topics and is the coauthor of "The American School Superintendent: Leading in an Age of Pressure" (Jossey-Bass Inc., 1997).