by Claire Miller
What characteristics make a teacher great?
Zackory Kirk, instructional coach at Douglass High School in Atlanta, asked attendees at the 2012 Academy for Future Teachers (AFT) this question, and they responded with several qualities: Patience, the ability to relate subject matter to everyday life, and engaging teaching methods, among others.
This year’s group of AFT students put those teaching characteristics into practice during the three-week academy, working with children in the College of Education’s Capitol Hill Child Development Center and the Atlanta After-School All-Stars (ASAS) program while learning about teaching styles and instructional strategies for math and science content.
In addition to working directly with children, AFT participants also discussed issues facing educators today, dissected squids in one of Kell Hall’s science labs and took field trips to the Georgia Aquarium, the Georgia Nature Center and the Tellus Museum of Science.
These experiences gave participants more insight into the practice of teaching while reinforcing their math and science knowledge, according to Laurie Forstner, AFT program coordinator.
The three-week academy culminated in a closing ceremony on June 22, where students explained their teaching philosophies and shared their thoughts on AFT with family and friends.
“I learned that teaching is a challenge, even though it looks easy to get up in front of a class and teach,” said Suna Njie, a first-year AFT student from Westlake High School in Atlanta. “Teachers are truly spectacular people.”
The ceremony also featured remarks from Walt Thompson, Regents professor of kinesiology and health in the COE and executive director of the Atlanta ASAS program, and Daniel Omotosho Black, professor of English and African-American studies at Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College.
While Thompson talked about how students can make an impact on a teacher’s life, Black focused on how teachers can influence their students in profound ways.
Black, who grew up working on his parents’ farm in Arkansas, said it took one teacher to change the course of his life – a role that he encouraged AFT participants to take seriously, should they continue working toward becoming teachers.
“She planted a seed in me and watered a yearning in me to learn,” he said. “Without her, I would be farming in Arkansas right now. So what I’m saying to you is this: Get ready, because your turn is coming.”
For more information on AFT, visit http://education.gsu.edu/AFT.