The Thursday, October 25, 2007 edition of USA Today featured an article about Nancy Berry, a teacher in Walton Beach, Florida. The 64-year-old first grade teacher’s classroom was described as a place where children want to learn. What struck me more than creative learning stations and individualizing instruction was her carefully crafted teaching strategies that instill self-confidence, etiquette, and compassion—the foundation of character traits that last a lifetime.
Here is an example of how she motivates youngsters to write. A topic is first discussed. Students write at least six lines about the discussion. The required six lines usually turns into 16. She avoids being critical of children’s mistakes. Instead she uses an empathetic approach when reviewing their work. Berry corrects any words with students individually, rereads the word, and acknowledges their effort by saying something like, “Even President Bush didn’t know how to do this in the first grade” or “That’s an eighth-grade-level word.”
Just this thought of how Nancy Berry inspires her students makes teaching, and the resulting growth of young people, one of the most satisfying of all professions.