There’s a million reasons to thank teachers who make a difference 

As a former teacher, it means a lot to me when I hear from old students. Teachers have shared that they are strengthened when students and their families, community leaders and even strangers appreciate them and their profession. That’s why every year during May, we partner with the Mayor’s Office and the San Francisco Education Fund to recognize teachers and promote ways you can recognize teachers, too.

There are thousands of San Francisco teachers and millions of things to appreciate. Today, to kick off a month of recognition events, I wanted to appreciate some of the great work just a few of our teachers are doing.

Connecting students with their community

As part of Balboa Law Academy’s Junior Pre-Law class, students work with mentors selected from the San Francisco legal community on résumé writing, public-speaking skills, interview skills, understanding the legal community and researching a community issue together. Teacher Michael Rosenberg has developed this curriculum at Balboa High School over the past 10 years and it keeps getting better.

This year, Rosenberg had volunteers from the civil grand jury. He tapped their expertise to help students take their community projects to new heights. He says one of the best outcomes was how well students worked in groups. The students utilized online communication tools such as Google Groups, Docs and Presentation. They chose their own student foreperson, whose job it was to engage their team. The collaboration with the grand jury was so successful that Rosenberg is talking to them about how else they may be able to help The City’s high school students.

Letting kids loose with science

Over at James Lick Middle School, Christine Diehl teaches math and science. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate: Her students learn math and science and she guides them. A really good example of this was a few months ago with the tornado modeling lesson. While it started as planned, the kids got so excited about what they were seeing with the pressure differentials that they started asking if they could make their own experiments.

Diehl reminded them to record their hypotheses and observations as they jumped into experiments with different materials in the bottled tornado. This lesson brought to life something important about Common Core State Standards instruction: Giving students more time to go deeper into concepts and let them build their own understanding.

Making learning visible

Before you even walk into Monique Williams’ kindergarten classroom at Visitacion Valley Elementary School, you see that the walls outside her door are alive with her students’ work. The displays not only show you what Williams’ students are creating, but also show us how their work is tied to the new Common Core standards. What a great way to help parents understand the Common Core.

When you walk into her classroom, all you can say is, “Wow!” Her young students are engaged in what’s going on, working independently and together with ease, and creating thoughtful work. How does she do it? By making sure students have what they need to learn at every level, and by always taking extra time to help students with meaningful questions to reflect on their choices. Her clear expectations for behavior and fair, firm, kind and consistent approach keep her students learning. Williams also remains deeply reflective of her work by keeping a journal and always asking the question, “What can I do better?”

Thank a teacher today

There isn’t enough room in all of the newspapers in San Francisco to list all the wonderful lessons the teachers in our schools have taught this year and all of the important interactions they’ve had with their students, families, colleagues and community members.

So you can do me one better: Send a note to your child’s current or former teacher this week saying how much you appreciated his or her work. Want to do even more to say thank you? Go here to get more ideas on how to thank a teacher: www.thankateachertoday.org.

Richard A. Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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