“We can begin innovating immediately. One effective approach is to integrate literacy into the content areas of science, social studies and math. Our students’ futures will depend on how literate they are in technological areas.” – Beth Maloney, USA
Beth Maloney has a clear goal: to teach her students to love learning. “I wake up and remember something that was told to me as a beginning teacher many years ago,” says Maloney. “’Every day could be the day that a child reminds you of twenty years from now.’ It is important for every day in the classroom to be our best day – our students deserve the best of us. Teaching is important because of the potential to change children’s lives and impact the future of our country and world through them.”
Maloney, the 2014 Arizona Teacher of the Year, brings that philosophy to bear in many forms: as a classroom teacher, as a colleague and trainer, and as an advocate for teaching in the political sphere. “My platform this year has been encouraging my fellow teachers to advocate for our profession and use their teacher voices outside of our classrooms,” says Maloney. “I didn’t bring politics into the world of education – it was brought into our classrooms. Stepping outside of my classroom this year, I’ve learned that policy makers and government officials need the voices of the experts in the classroom – classroom teachers!”
Maloney says that one of her proudest achievements this year was being part of the planning committee for the first annual “Bring Your Legislator to School Day” in Arizona. “Teaching is complex, challenging work, but effective teachers do it so invisibly that it seems effortless,” notes Maloney. “Our participating teachers will show legislators a glimpse of what teachers really do – careful lesson planning, engagement, differentiation, asking higher-order questions, re-directing, assessing, etc. Most legislators have watched teachers teach for 13 years of their own schooling and think they know what it our job entails. They’ve only seen the ‘on-stage’ aspect of teaching. I hope that our endeavor will show them the ‘back stage’ of our profession and open their eyes to the challenges and successes we have in our classrooms every day.”
And while Maloney’s efforts and talents have been recognized on a national stage by peers and administrators, her students may in fact be her greatest supporters. Listen to why some of her students believe Maloney should be teacher of the year:
Join me in congratulating Maloney not only on her 2014 Arizona Teacher of the Year distinction, but also on her ongoing devotion to the career of teaching, and her dedication to helping her students reach their full potential. Enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Beth Maloney!
Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?
I really struggled with math in high school. In my family of engineers, this was unheard of. I had the same math teacher for my sophomore and junior years, Mr. Mihalik. He showed immense amounts of patience during school and hours of after school tutoring, and even broke through my teenaged bad attitude. I attribute my love and understanding of the beauty of math to him. Thanks for making a difference, Mr. Mihalik!
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
I keep in touch with my teaching friends across the country and world through Facebook. They are the community I go to when I need advice, support, or encouragement. Twitter has opened up a new world of personal professional development to me because someone is always posting the latest research article or thought-provoking essay.
In your opinion, how has the use of apps, cellphones, and mobile devices changed education? And your work?
I use a “Bring Your Own Device” model in my classroom because it increases engagement with my students. I hope to foster sound technological practices with my classes. We talk a lot about not getting frustrated when things don’t work and how to creatively troubleshoot. We learn how to decipher whether a source is trustworthy or not. I introduce my students to a variety of sites, apps, and tools in the hopes that they will feel comfortable with a wide array of platforms. These are the attitudes and skills I hope they will carry to the workforce someday! In my opinion, mobile devices make my work easier – I try to go as paperless as possible, and I love how easy communication with parents and peers is.
In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?
Hybrid roles — where a teacher is in the classroom part time and in a different role part time — is exciting to me. In addition to teaching part time, teachers take on other roles such as Department of Education liaison, coach, mentor, “teacherpreneur”, and more. Teacher leaders can then remain “plugged in” to daily life in the classroom. I respect the advice I get from other teachers who are currently in the classroom themselves. I love to hear, “I tried this with my kids yesterday!” We need to have more expert teachers able to keep their skills sharp in the classroom but still able to share their expertise with other practitioners. It is the effective classroom teachers that should be leading our profession! Real school improvement comes from within. Teachers can be the catalyst for change.
Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?
Creativity! There is nothing that a creative person can’t solve. I believe the main role of teachers is not to provide answers but to enhance a child’s natural curiosity and creativity. I try to provide a classroom environment and time to wonder, discover, explore, and create.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
I would give Internet capabilities on a reliable device to every child in the world because children are naturally curious and will seek out answers to their questions. They would be able to communicate with other children and teachers around the world. They could use their creativity to help solve our world’s problems.
What is your country doing well currently to support education?
We have amazing, dedicated teachers who work incredibly hard to ensure the success of our students.
How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?
Our schools need to produce graduates with the skills required to fulfill the jobs of tomorrow. Careers in the STEM fields are growing twice as fast as other fields. We need to guarantee our students are prepared for college and future jobs that require a strong math, technology and science pedagogy. In order to maintain a competitive workforce, our schools must ensure a quality STEM education for our students.
We can begin innovating immediately. One effective approach is to integrate literacy into the content areas of science, social studies and math. Our students’ futures will depend of how literate they are in technological areas. We must devote adequate instructional time and resources to STEM education in the early grades to build a foundation for more complex learning in the intermediate and upper grades. We need to invest in teachers who are ready to serve students’ needs. We need a workforce that is eager and prepared to solve the challenges of tomorrow.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
Time – too much precious classroom time is devoted to testing random facts and not to real thinking. As I’ve heard many times, “You can’t grow a pig by weighing it.” It reminds me of my favorite Albert Einstein story. Einstein was in Boston in 1933, where a reporter gave him a pop quiz known as the Edison test. The inventor Thomas Edison hated theoretical knowledge. He gave job seekers a test of 150 factual questions (Does this remind you of your state’s bubble-in test?) such as “What country consumes the most tea?” and “What was Gutenberg’s type made of?” The reporter asked Einstein a question from the test, “What is the speed of sound?” If anyone understood sound waves – it was Einstein! Einstein said that he did not carry such information in his head since it is readily available in books. Then he said, “The value of an education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.” I think our time is better spent letting [search engines] handle the many facts and letting teachers help students to really learn how to reason, research, and evaluate – to really think! (My source for this story is Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Issacson)
While we haven’t overcome this yet, we are beginning to realize that this massive amount of time dedicated to testing low-level skills is a problem. Our old state assessments were merely autopsies of learning. There was nothing that could be changed because instruction was already over. My district heard its teachers loud and clear and is providing time for teachers to write common formative assessments together. We can use these tests as real indicators of learning and change or enhance instruction accordingly.
How can teachers or school leaders facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
Speak up! District leadership is not always in the classroom every day and they don’t see curriculum scopes and sequences in action with real learners. Our leaders knew we needed some better ways to assess and they allowed us as professionals to give them advice on what we would like it to look like and how we would use it in our classrooms.
About Beth Maloney
5th Grade Teacher and 2014 Arizona Teacher of the Year
Sunset Hills Elementary School
Surprise, Arizona, USA
- Birthplace: Peoria, Illinois
- Current residence: Surprise, Arizona
- Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and Master’s Degree in Leadership and Supervision from National Louis University in Chicago. Honorary Doctorate Degree in Humane Letters from Northern Arizona University
- Website I check every day: Facebook
- Person who inspires me most: Nelson Mandela because of his tireless fight against injustice and his ability to be a true leader in the face of difficult circumstances.
- Favorite childhood memory: The annual summer trip to the northern woods of Wisconsin with aunts, uncles, and cousins to spend a week enjoying nature, water sports, and family fun.
- Next travel destination (work or pleasure): The State Teachers of the Year have our final conference together at Princeton in October. It will be a bittersweet week of reflection on our year together and planning our future endeavors.
- When was the last time you laughed? Why? My husband and I laughed very hard at our six- year-old daughter pondering a LEGO catalog and musing, “I wonder which LEGO set I should order from Santa?”
- Favorite book: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- Favorite music: Anything I can sing and/or dance to.
- What is the best advice you have ever received? I was not originally interested in being a teacher. My major in college was Public Broadcasting and Public Relations. After truly enjoying a summer spent at a YMCA outdoors camp as a counselor, my boyfriend (who later became my husband) advised me to become a teacher since I enjoyed my days with the kids so much. I took his advice, and I have never regretted it!
- Your favorite quote or motto: Inspired enthusiasm is contagious.