“We want to create students that are as innovative as Steve Jobs, as determined as Michael Jordan, as brave as Rosa Parks, as creative as Walt Whitman, as efficient as Henry Ford, as passionate as Oprah Winfrey and as kind as Mister Rogers.” – Ryan Devlin, USA
The influence a great teacher can have on a young person’s life cannot be overstated. Here at Daily Edventures, we have had the pleasure of interviewing luminaries from many walks for life – like Bill Gates and Michael Furdyk – who credit great teachers with helping them reach their full potential.
And each year we join the U.S. in celebrating these great teachers through the National Teacher of the Year Award, including last year’s winner, Jeff Charbonneau. The competition this year was fierce once again, and we are thrilled to speak today with Ryan Devlin, who was named a finalist for the 2014 National Teacher of the Year award, and winner of Pennsylvania’s 2013 Teacher of the Year.
Devlin, a teacher at Brockway Area High School, is in his fifth year at the school, teaching 11th-grade British literature, 8th-grade computer science, and two high school electives – creative writing and digital media.
“I have always believed the ultimate goal of education can best be summed up by the U.S. Army slogan, ‘Be All That You Can Be,'” says Devlin. “To accomplish this goal, education must equip students with skills, knowledge, attitudes, and the resources necessary to live a productive and successful life. Teachers need to provide their students with a holistic education that fuses content knowledge with lessons that promote critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity, and innovation.”
Even for Devlin, it was a great teacher who helped point him in the right direction. “…A miracle happened in first grade; I met the woman I wanted to marry. Miss Worokey wore shimmery red lipstick, sported high heels, and wore perfume that could permeate an entire room,” he says. “Her skills included giving good hugs, talking excitedly, making learning fun, and celebrating the uniqueness of every child in our first grade classroom. She forever changed my outlook on school, and I had perfect attendance that year. Thanks to Miss Worokey’s lavish praise of my accomplishment, I ended up graduating high school missing only one day of school. Even at six-years-old, I knew I wanted to become a fun, enthusiastic teacher – just like Miss Worokey – one day.”
Devlin’s enthusiasm for teaching runs deep, and permeates almost every aspect of his life. Whether he’s adapting shows likeThe Apprentice, writing a magazine, or creating a“Living Wax Museum,” Devlin finds a way to make his lessons relevant, fun, and engaging.
“Today’s children will indeed become tomorrow’s leaders, so we must teach them ways to find creative solutions to complex problems through collaborating with others and making the best use of technology and the information readily available,” says Devlin. “Instead of producing excellent test-takers in our country, we need to produce confident yet curious, divergent thinkers who will become our next great entrepreneurs, artists, doctors, farmers, scientists, humanitarians, engineers, politicians, teachers, innovators, etc.”
Here’s today’s Daily Edventure with Ryan Devlin – it’s a bit different than the usual…just as we would expect from a National Teacher of the Year finalist. Enjoy!
So Ryan, how have you improved the teaching profession?
I inspire and encourage other educators to join me in transforming our traditional classrooms into student-centered learning environments that are as prevailing as Justin Bieber. I am a millennial, and I grew up using technology like ICQ, AOL instant messenger, and MySpace. I mastered venturing the Oregon Trail on DOS, raced Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog, and used a Zach Morris-sized cell phone that was impossible to fit into my pocket. My students have similar digital upbringings, but are partial to Snapchat, Candy Crush, Vine, and thinner yet faster gadgets. A 2013 TIME Magazine cover story called Millennials, “lazy, entitled narcissists,” but I disagree with this generalization. I believe we are underestimating the potential of today’s globally connected, tech-savvy students.
What do you advocate for on your students’ behalf?
I advocate for change and innovation within our public schools. Millennials have unique skill sets, access to boundless resources, and need learning environments tailored to address the needs of today’s global economy. I advocate for modernizing traditional curricula, developing real world assessments, and expanding our use of technology in schools so learning can become more personalized, relevant, and rigorous. Millennial students’ potential is at risk if we doubt their capability and prepare them for our past, instead of their future.
How have you advocated for change?
I lead by example and continually adapt my own unique teaching style. Along with working one-on-one with teachers within my own district, I share technology resources at in-service days, conferences, and online with hundreds of educators with whom I network via Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. My keynote addresses and college visits challenge both young and seasoned educators to become America’s Most Wanted Teacher by embracing their creativity and doing things differently. Even members of our United States Congress, State Senate, and House of Representatives sought to become a part of my conversation and joined me in celebrating the hard work and dedication of educators across our country.
What are your thoughts on teacher evaluation?
Teacher evaluation is an essential component to ensuring our students have access to excellent teachers. In Pennsylvania our new system of Educator Effectiveness values classroom observation, student academic growth over time, the whole school academic landscape, and the opportunity for teachers to create Student Learning Objectives for their classrooms. This multi-measure approach offers a robust, research-based approach to gauging teacher quality.
What should be the basis for accountability in the teaching profession?
The Parking Lot Test. Look which teachers’ cars spend the most time in the school parking lot. I’m half-kidding. There need to be multiple measures, which is why I personally favor Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching that explores a multitude of a teacher’s responsibilities and is now being used in Pennsylvania.
That appears to take a lot into account!
Another benefit of this framework is the professional dialogue and personal reflection that coincides with a classroom observation that uses this model. After being evaluated and gaining administrator feedback, teachers then identify a specific area they can improve so their future professional development is more focused and individualized.
More information on Ryan Devlin: