Watson Chronicle


Student Opportunities and Student News

North Carolina Teacher of the Year visits WCE to share insights with pre-service Teachers

Monday, November 18, 2013

Karyn Dickerson speaking at a Watson College event

Karyn Dickerson, North Carolina’s 2013-14 Teacher of the Year, spoke at a Watson College event hosted by Teaching Fellows in early October. Dickerson, a high school English teacher at Grimsley High School in Guilford County, says the best teachers share three qualities: passion, vulnerability and flexibility. She encouraged her audience of 80 pre-service teachers to have the confidence to take creative risks in the classroom, make mistakes and change what went wrong. This, she says, gives students confidence to take risks too and that’s when they learn.

Dickerson acknowledged teachers are occasionally belittled in the media, and said the past two months have been particularly challenging. She encouraged students to always bear in mind why they chose the profession, and reinforced her point by showing a YouTube of Taylor Mali reciting his poem, “What do Teachers Make?” The answer, according to Mali, is that teachers make a difference.

Asked how young teachers can best establish credibility in the classroom, Dickerson advised, “Be true to your personality, be consistent, and remember that your job is to earn students’ respect, not their friendship.” She said it’s important to connect with other teachers and build ties to the community. Dickerson says students need connections too, and she’s a big supporter of service-learning projects as a way to engage middle and high schoolers. Asked how she maintains such a positive attitude with so much going on, Dickerson said she keeps a “smile file” that includes positive emails from parents and students and notes on “things that work.” When she’s having a down day and all else fails, Dickerson said she re-reads these notes for personal inspiration.

The North Carolina Teacher of the Year Award begins with a nomination at the school level. Dickerson said candidates are vetted at the district and state level based on a portfolio of work, level of community involvement, and philosophy and vision for the teaching profession. It’s a full-time job for one year. The job involves visiting schools and school districts to inspire teachers, visiting colleges to inspire pre-service teachers and serving on the State Board of Education in an advisory capacity.

To learn more about Karyn Dickerson visit http://www.karyndickerson.com To read Taylor Mali’s poem visit http://www.taylormali.com/poems-online/what-teachers-make/

To view the YouTube video shared at Karyn Dickerson’s presentation visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xkk71rhQpo