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The Anatomy of a Great Teacher

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The editors at Top Teaching Colleges decided to research the topic of

The Anatomy of a Great Teacher

A great teacher changes the lives of their students forever; they instill confidence and knowledge in every student who crosses their path. What makes a great teacher, and how do they treat their students and their classroom? Find out where teachers fit into our society, and what they're doing to educate young people in America.

Fast Facts about Education and Teachers In America

- There were 7.2 million teachers in the U.S. in 2009
- With a projected growth rate of more than 15% between 2010-2020, there will be nearly 8.3 million teachers employed in the U.S. by 2020
- Each year, about 50 million American children attend public schools
- But 1.2 million students drop out of high school each year
- Each year, the U.S. spends just $9,644 per student, compared to $22,600 per prison inmate!
- By the time a child graduates from high school, he or she may have had as many as 47 teachers
- One teacher for each year of elementary school: K-5 (5 teachers)
- Six teachers for six subjects for each year: grades 6-8 (18 teachers)
- Six teachers for six subjects each year: grades 9-12 (24 teachers)
- That doesn't include coaches, special needs teachers, supplemental learning, preschool education or daycare professionals!

Great Teachers

- Routinely evolve their teaching strategies and lesson plans to cater to their student's needs
- Identify ambitious short and long-term goals to improve student learning and the effectiveness of their teaching
- Encourage student and family participation in their learning programs, and advocate learning opportunities outside of the classroom
- Focus on student learning and increasing the value of class time
- Work backward from their desired student learning outcome to plan for their student's success
- Deliver top-notch education in the classroom, despite the outside forces of poverty, bureaucracy and budgetary shortfalls

Teaching from the Perspective of the 2012 National Teacher of the Year

- English Teacher Rebecca Mieliwocki
- Treat standardized tests as a target for students, not as a metric for lesson plan development
- 'Those tests are so narrow that if you tried to teach kids just those things, they'd have a warped and weird education.'
- Only 28% of teachers see standardized tests as an important or essential gauge of student assessment
- Start revolutions
- 'If we change to fit what somebody else says kids need and that person works in an office and hasn't seen a kid since 1992, we would not be giving kids what great teachers know they need.'
- Make personal sacrifices for students
- 'I'm seeing more hungry, hungry kids; it's troubling. I'm already spending half of my paycheck on teaching supplies. Now the rest is going [to help feed hungry students].'
- 'That statistic that the average teacher spends $400 a year [on students]--I laughed. It's much closer to $2,000 or $3,000. I keep track.'
- Prioritize learning, but show compassion for students in need
- 'The priority has to be on learning,' Mieliwocki said, but she also uses her lunch to help kids with homework, makes sure each student has a ride home, and if a student has been wearing the same dirty clothes for some time, she'll launder it.
- 82-89% of all public elementary schools provide parents with information designed to promote learning at home and on topics related to child-rearing issues
- Love their students and their profession
- 'I really love it. They'll carry my cold, dead body out of that seventh-grade classroom.'
- 46% of teachers said they work more than 20 hours per week outside of the classroom, and 31% report working and extra 11-20 hours per week

Great Teachers Change the World

- The impact teachers have on a student's education is profound; the greater the teacher, the better the education
- Investing in America's teachers is an investment in the future of America. Great teachers should care about their students and go the extra mile to ensure quality education.

Notable People Influenced by Teachers

- Bill Gates, Microsoft Founder: Though Mr. Sal Khan isn't exactly Gates' teacher, Gates is an avid proponent of the Harvard MBA/former hedge fund manager, who offers online free mini-lectures on myriad topics.
- Seth Godin, Entrepreneur: Godin praises his third and fifth grade teacher, Mr. Jonathan Guillaume, for always encouraging students to be inquisitive and challenge the rules.
- Warren Buffett, Investor: Buffett was so greatly inspired by Columbia University professor Ben Graham that his son's middle name is Graham. Buffett, always hooked on his two-hour lessons, saw that Graham simply loved to teach.
- Oprah Winfrey, Entrepreneur: Winfrey credits her fourth grade teacher, Ms. Mary Duncan, with inspiring her love of learning, ultimately driving her success.
- Buzz Aldrin, Astronaut: Aldrin's high school math teacher, Mr. Leach, helped Aldrin reach the top of his class in math at West Point US Military Academy.