Everyone who stands at the head of a classroom has a different philosophy for how to do the job.
For Sean McComb, the mantra is clear: “Love first, then teach.”
McComb should know. The Council of Chief State School Officers, endorsed by President Obama, named McComb the 2014 National Teacher of the Year.
An English teacher at Baltimore’s Patapsco High School & Center for the Arts and, at 30 years old, the youngest person ever to receive the award, McComb recently took the stage at the TED Talks Live event in New York City to talk about his experiences.
He brought up his own source of inspiration growing up, Mr. Reagan, who routinely stayed late with kids because they had nowhere else to go. For McComb, who came from a broken family awash with alcoholism and early death, this level of caring was huge.
It gave him the courage to pursue his dreams when life was telling him they were unreachable. Mr. Reagan made it possible, he says.
“Hope rests in the hearts of teachers,” he said from the stage.
That mentality ultimately led McComb to start AVID — or the Advancement Via Individual Determination program. In place at more than 2,000 schools around the country, the class recognises middle-of-the-road kids who show potential in going to college. It then gives them the motivation to pursue more rigorous courses and inspires them to see themselves as more than just mediocre.
The system works: In AVID’s last two graduating classes at Patapsco High, 98% of students were admitted to four-year colleges.
The heart of AVID’s success is the strength of the student-teacher relationship. Creating a bond is good, McComb says, but nurturing it is what gets kids feeling confident in their abilities.
He told the story of Brianna, who entered high school on the wrong track despite being extremely bright. She was placed into AVID.
McComb decided he would be her teacher all four years, a dynamic that’s integral to AVID’s success, he says. As a result, Brianna had an anchor at the school. She felt comfortable talking with McComb, and over time they sorted out her personal issues. Eventually, Brianna was accepted into college, where McComb says she’s studying to become a teacher.
McComb hopes for these kinds of stories in schools around the world. Education may be becoming more tech-heavy, he says, but it’s the personal touches that will ultimately get kids excited about what that technology offers.
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