Career Path for 2014 National Teacher of the Year

Posted by Ronald | July 11, 2014  |  No Comment

The 2014 National Teacher of the Year (NTOY) is Sean McComb. McComb teaches at Patapsco High School and the Center for the Arts in Baltimore where he participates in coaching and training as the school’s staff development teacher, curriculum writer for the school system and an instructor at Towson University. He also works with students in a college-readiness program called AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) where the success rate for the past two years of students being admitted to college and earning scholarships has been outstanding. An excerpt of the interview with McComb follows:

What influenced you to pursue a career in education?

By the middle of my high school experience, my life had become chaotic. My mother had developed a torrid addiction to alcohol; my father had recently lost another position after only a few years.  Academics were not a priority; I did well enough that my friends didn’t catch on to the fact that I wasn’t trying very hard. When I wasn’t escaping to extra-curricular activities or my more-than-part-time job, I hid in my room, insulating myself from my mother’s downward spiral, which I was ill-equipped to halt.  But, when I walked into Mr. Schurtz’s room that fall, I was provided with a new escape in the stories, experiences and perspectives offered through the study of literature. There was no option not to learn in Mr. Schurtz’s room.  He stalked a central aisle with the intensity of a spurred bull, unwilling to let students settle for mediocre analysis, and pressing us to further our criticism. It was this passion for learning that pulled my heart out of that dark place and toward the light of hope.  This is the power of education.  It was the dedication and belief of my teachers that helped me to believe in myself.  They showed me, first hand, how teachers can change a life and how education can open the door of opportunity.  Upon graduation, I knew that I wanted to dedicate myself to pay that forward to other young people going through their own struggles.

What educational background and/or professional training are essential for this profession?

I believe that going through a sustained (multiple month, at least) student-teaching, or internship experience under the guidance of a master teacher is vital.  This experience of getting constant feedback, to have a master educator supporting your every move, provides an important foundation of reflective practice and, hopefully, a focus on constant growth. This experience, paired with coursework that focuses on the science of learning and providing pre-service teachers with a wealth of techniques and strategies to use in the classroom, is essential for a beginning teacher.

That said, as a teacher, it is imperative to be a lifelong learner. I have sought out and experienced incredible professional development opportunities over the course of my career.  From the Maryland Writing Project’s Invitational Summer Institute, to completing a Master’s degree and School Improvement Leadership Certificate, to attending conferences and now curating my own professional learning network through social media, seeking self-improvement is necessary to be a great educator.

What professional, civic or community organization do you belong?

I am a member of Mountain Christian Church, in Joppa Md. and through various ministries with our church, I have volunteered in an afterschool program, served at a shelter in our community and helped setup for service. I have also worked alongside my students in various service projects, from tree planting and creek cleanups to charity walks and toy drives.  My favorite event, is serving meals to the needy during the holiday season, which my students and I have done together for five years.

I also belong to various professional organizations. I am a teacher-consultant for the Maryland Writing Project. I belong to both the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Society for Technology in Education.  I am also a member of the Maryland Parent-Teacher Association and the Teachers Association of Baltimore County.

What advice do you give to students who desire to pursue a career as a teacher?

Teaching is an incredible opportunity to live a very fulfilling life of purpose. Teachers have incredible opportunity to help launch lives every single day. In my opinion, there is no more important work.  But, because it is important, it is also complex and challenging.  It is not only intellectually challenging, it is emotional as well because teachers become invested in students.

I advise students interested in teaching to be sure they pursue the work for the right reasons.  The summer “break” might be a break from the day-to-day, but it is very rarely a true “vacation” for teachers, who instead spend those months in professional learning, revising lessons, writing curricula or often working a different job.  If possible, I encourage students to seek opportunities in classrooms by interning while in high school, through a program our school offers, or by volunteering to tutor or working in after school care.  I want students to go into the work because they love to work with children at their selected grade level(s), not because they enjoyed being at that grade level themselves.

What is your typical work schedule?

As a Teacher of the Year and a new father, this has been an atypical year. This is what a typical day looked like last year: 4:45 a.m. — awake, gym, shower, dress, breakfast in car on the way to school; 7:15 a.m. — arrive at school, check email, make final preparations for class, chat with students who stop in the room; 7:45 a.m. — first block, English 10, the challenge at this period is to energize students whose body chemistry is telling them that they should be sleeping.  I have to be very high energy.  We work from an essential question that typically ties the literature we’re working with to a composition piece the students are writing; 9:10 a.m. — homeroom, check emails, have some 1-on-1 conversations with students; 9:20 a.m. — second block, AVID 11, often a tutorial where I may be helping a group of students with work in physics, American history, Trigonometry or Spanish.  I won’t know the topics until they arrive, and will have to help lead students through using their resources such as notes, each other and the web to clarify their confusion. Following tutorial, we work on SAT prep, developing successful academic habits or reading/writing skills; 10:45 a.m. — lunch duty or coverage depending on the day/making copies for upcoming lessons/paperwork for administration/email or calls to a few parents/eat lunch; 12:45 p.m. — fourth block, English 10. Students are typically high energy early in this period, but might lose all energy in the second half. The challenge here is to harness the energy for learning and sustain through the final bell; 2:15p.m. — I am tired at this point so I focus on less-intensive things like grading papers, contacts with parents, planning; 3:30 p.m. — leave the building to return home; 4:15 p.m.-7:00 p.m. — home, dinner, walk dog, time with wife; 7:00p.m. — my wife (also a teacher) and I are both grading student work at the dining room table; 9:00 p.m. –pack up for the next day, prep lunches, gym bag, etc. 10:00 p.m. — lights out.

We sincerely congratulate Sean McComb for being named the 2014 National Teacher of the Year. We wish him well as he travels nationally and internationally to advocate for the teaching profession. Please read more on The Holmes Education Post on how McComb effectively manages the classroom.

Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of six books, “Education Questions to be Answered,” “Current Issues and Answers in Education,”  “How to Eradicate Hazing,” “Professional Career Paths” “Your Answers to Education Questions” and “How to revitalize the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.” He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper.  Holmes is a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at [email protected].


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