Published 12 May 2017
Teachers who inspire! Clockwise from top left: Piedmont Middle School's Mr. Greenebaum being interviewed by the film crew, Mr. Kessler leading an in-class experiment, and Ms. Kerwin discussing the character of Captain Jaggery.
Yesterday, together with a small crew, I had the great opportunity to visit the classrooms of three spectacular teachers at Piedmont Middle School, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our crew was out filming the staff’s and teachers’ stories about FrontRow and, beyond the positive product feedback, I walked away with a renewed admiration for the craft of teaching.
Our first stop was at Mr. Greenebaum’s class. He engaged the students with several activities and approaches. The desks were set up in groups of four and he had students work as independent teams as he led them through a deep dive of the topic of rising sea levels.
One minute the students were discussing specific questions and the next they were on their Chromebooks researching answers, then they were answering individually, and then back to group discussions and answers. My favorite part was seeing how all the students—seriously, all—were so eager to participate and to approach the subject; every time he asked questions, multiple hands would go up. He would call on students and ask them to state their answers and they would enthusiastically voice them.
If you were a student in that class, you’d be just as excited. Mr. Greenebaum taught the material with plenty of facts, graphs, and illustrations and peppered his instruction with fun little sayings; for example, instead of saying “Ready, set, go!” when he was assigning a timed activity, he would say “Vincent Van GOgh!,” “Fla-min-GO!,” or “Man-GO!” I don’t recall ever having a teacher who infused tidbits of fun like that into class. The camera crew and I agreed that we would have loved to have Mr. Greenebaum as our science teacher back in the day.
Lab-coat wearing Mr. Kessler was in the classroom across the way. He had a class full of “secret agents” exploring scientific phenomena—he had them repeat the word “phe-no-me-na” and explained that it was the plural of phenomenon…Then he started humming that Muppets song Mahna Mahna replacing “Manha Mahna” with “phenomena.” Next thing you know, several kids are humming and rhythmically tapping their desks singing “phenomena.” It was for just a few seconds—maybe ten—but enough to make the word indelible in their minds.
Mrs. Kerwin welcomed us into her English class and, again, we saw students excited to participate and share observations—this time of Avi's award-winning historical novel, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. She posed questions that piqued their interest and validated their answers while guiding them to deeper character and plot analysis.
I love that our products, especially the teacher microphone, are making a positive impact on teaching at this campus; but, when we were there, that wasn’t the point. Piedmont’s teachers inspired us by showing their zest for teaching and for seeing students connect with the material.
Our visit to Piedmont Middle School was not planned in conjunction with National Teacher Appreciation Week; still, it had everything to do with it once we got there. To all the Mr. Greenebaums, Mr. Kesslers, and Ms. Kerwin’s across the U.S. and beyond, thank you for your daily labor of love!