Question 1 - Commitment - Describe your most defining moment in the classroom.

What has being an educator taught you about yourself?

My most "defining" moment in the classroom was in January of 2005. During the previous semester a colleague informed me that he would be retiring due to health problems and asked me to move from my current World History level classes to take over his honors classes. I was humbled by the offer. It was my first semester back in the classroom after working as an information technologist. I knew I would have big shoes to fill in January. The plan was that I would take over his classes to start the new semester. Things did not go according to plan. He had a massive heart attack and died during the holiday. When I heard the news I was simply shocked. The first day back to school would be the first day meeting my new students. It would be my job to deliver this tragic news to the students. This was the first opportunity for me to deal with death in the classroom. For six periods I looked into welcoming, smiling sophomore faces, only to see their expressions change as I began to explain the news. The students knew the semester would bring change. They had their going away party for him to end the semester. They had no idea it would be the last time they saw him. The task of building a relationship with students on the top of sharing such terrible news was awfully hard. Each time that I broke the news to a group of students, I cried. There was no other way for me to do this. I had to be real with them. Over the next year I would lose, in succession, my beloved mother-in-law, my grandmother, and my father. In the spring of 2006 another tragedy occurred. This time it made national news, but still struck close to home. A student in my first period class was bitten by a bat infected with rabies. Zach died very quickly after they realized what was wrong. Our entire school was in a state of shock. Seeing Zach's empty desk in my first period class brought an overwhelming sense of sadness. To cope, I leaned on the experience I gained during my most "defining" moment. The students needed me, again. Over the next week, I heard over and over in my classes, "Mr. Duez, you are the only teacher that will talk to us about Zach." In my most defining moment in the classroom, I

learned that sometimes my students need more than a teacher. Sometimes they need a friend that understands the pain they are feeling. Question 2 Commitment - If you could offer some words of advice or encouragement to a young teacher just beginning his/her journey in the classroom what would you say?

My advice to new teachers has been to be consistent and to never be afraid to ask for help. Most young teachers have a high level of enthusiasm. With that often comes a high level of frustration when things do not go their way. I simply tell a new teacher, things are not always going to go as planned. In fact, they should count on things happening in the classroom that will backfire, blowup and overwhelm them. Be prepared to adjust, but never give in or give up. Teaching can be the most isolated profession that I know. Rarely do teachers get the opportunity to view 'good teaching.' Rarely are teachers a part of a comprehensive mentor program. A young teacher needs to be proactive, ask for help and seek out advice from veteran teachers. But, within their classroom walls, a young teacher needs to keep a consistent level of energy each day. I often conjure up the imagery of a sculptor when describing what it takes to be a teacher. Rome was not built in a day. A great Roman-era sculpture was not created with one single, powerful swing. No one could recognize David as Michelangelo began work on his famous sculpture. But, in the end it is a priceless work of art. So it is for the student in a class that is struggling. That student needs to know that every day their teacher will be in their corner with the same persistence. Young teachers often have "great days" and "terrible days." The key is to string together many "good" days. Habits are the key to building consistency in a young teacher. One habit that I stress is to get contact information, such as email, work and home phone numbers, and even addresses of students and parents. Developing good habits of contacting parents regularly eliminates many issues down the road. Students have one version of the things. Parents should not only hear their child's version. Parents need to hear directly from the teacher. This is positive public relations and it opens a pathway and an invitation to the parent to reciprocate communication when it is necessary.

It is all about customer support. I tell young teachers to deal with their students, parents and colleagues with one question, "How can I help you?" That phrase helps to eliminate the next set of thoughts that a young teacher has, "How can I possibly help this person, I am overwhelmed!" A teacher can help if they keep a consistent approach and always foster communication.

Question 3 - Innovation - What is different about the strategies and methods that you use to connect with children? What makes your classroom unique?

There is no doubt that my greatest innovation is my website and my knowledge of technology. I tell students and parents that my website is like an open house that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It is the gateway into my classroom from outside. It is the portal for any information about what we have done or may be doing in World History.

During my time as a college student in the late 1980s, no one really envisioned the world of tomorrow that we would be living in today. The term Internet was not even a term. As I began teaching, technology quickly became a booming sector and I found myself having the opportunity to get onto my own super highway of information and opportunity. As a World Cultures teacher and coach at North Shore Middle School in the early 1990s a need arose for a position assisting our instructional technologist. At the time, I did not realize the advantages that a career in technology would give me. Entering the world of technology was the second best professional decision I ever made. The best decision was returning to the classroom where I could capitalize on my new skills to bring history to life for my students through various technologies. Students today crave multimedia, video, audio, and music. They consume information in bits and mega bytes. Traditional teaching methods are not as effective as they used to be. Today Power Point slide shows embedded with short and powerful video clips and audio picture shows that incorporate music give history a depth and complexity that the textbook alone cannot supply.

Students light up when I pass out a sheet of lyrics. They hear my surround sound speakers play music as the mounted ceiling projector that is connected to my computer displays a picture slide show. They know what they are about to see is special and unique. They know few of their teachers have taken the time to create such a learning environment. It is my hope that when they leave my classroom they are ultimately stimulated by this new media to consider cracking open their "old" media text book and have a hunger to learn more.

Question 4 - Innovation - How do you define success for yourself and your students?

After I graduated from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, I spent a year substitute teaching. During that time I read a few books written by the former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. He has the best definition of the word success: "Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best that you are capable of becoming." His definition was something he perfected over years of reflection. He formulated this definition around his "Pyramid of Success." The Pyramid is all about building blocks and having a foundation of key abilities and personal traits. I rather like his definition for success as it applies to the classroom because it is student-centered. Success for one student may be failure for another. Raw numbers, letter grades, and TAKS test scores fade in importance over time. Having the student build positive momentum in their lives and to take an approach of continuous and never-ending daily improvement means the most to me. At the end of every year my sophomore students write a resume. It is special because the resume is not a snapshot from their current lives as a tenth grade student. I ask them to think ahead and write it as if they were twenty-two years-old and just graduating from college. They have to show progress along a path towards success. It is probably the most rewarding project that they complete all year - for me. I have a chance to watch them present to the class their vision of what they will become. It is quite rewarding to see those same students a few years later and check in on them to see how they are progressing with that vision. To me that is success, to have the intelligence to plan a path, make goals, and then to appreciate the achievement of reaching those goals.

It is my hope that teaching World History will give students an understanding of the past that will illuminate a path for their future. Knowing where we have been as a human culture, understanding our tragic mistakes, and feeling the power of people dedicated to bringing peace and unity to our world can empower young people. I hope the examples of people like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Winston Churchill, and Eleanor Roosevelt inspire my students to achieve their dreams.

Question 5 - Professional Development - What do you do to continue to learn and grow professionally and to encourage your peers to do the same?

It is a privilege to be a part of a brand new 5A high school in the state of Texas. We have a state of the art facility that rivals any in the nation. Within the walls of this new building was a vacuum of opportunity. At a new school there are no leaders. My experience as a leader in the corporate world has helped me realize that this new start is an opportunity for me to learn new skills and help to develop them in our faculty. Each Thursday our students arrive ninety minutes later to give our school an opportunity to create a "Professional Learning Community." Within this community, teachers and administrators work together to plan and provide professional growth. I continued my role as World History lead teacher this year. I cherish the opportunity to help guide the eight teachers on my team. As a part of my role, I have been sent off campus for training to learn how to break down and analyze the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). As a part of my continuing education I am required to take eighteen hours of GT credit each year to maintain my certification as an honors teacher. I am a member of two very crucial teams at my high school: The Advisory Council and the Technology Committee. While a member of the staff at Humble High School, I was frustrated with the direction of the Advisory Program and the Technology Program. I was determined to have a voice in building these very important programs at Atascocita High School and helping to guide their direction and impact on the students. Our principal at AHS says, "Advisory is the cultural spine of our school." He is committed to our success as a high school flowing through building relationships with

students through this daily, 30 minute period called Advisory. I have worked hard with our small learning community coordinator to develop lessons and help train teachers to deliver a quality advisory program. I am proud to provide leadership and help my colleagues as it pertains to technology. It is a perfect synergy to use the knowledge and skills I have learned in my technology career and apply those skills to AHS. It is my hope that our staff can lean on me as a valuable resource that understands what is needed in the classroom to educate our children in the realm of technology.

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