Teaching | St. Louis Public Radio


Jeff Konkel left public relations to become a middle school English teacher. He's a resident at KIPP Inspire Academy and will have his own class next year.
File photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Jan. 9 with information about teacher recruitment efforts

Missouri education officials have a handful of ideas on how to get more people interested in becoming public school teachers and then staying in the classroom for the long term.

It goes along with a nearly $400 million pitch to increase teacher pay detailed last month.

The six-point recruitment and retention plan reviewed and compiled by a teachers working group was presented to the State Board of Education during its monthly meeting Thursday.

Washington University's Institute for School Partnership's Math314 program is training teachers to take a more conversational approach to math instruction.
Elliot Haney | via Flickr

What is there to say about the number 7? It’s odd, it’s prime. It can be reached by adding 3 + 4, 5 + 2 and 6 + 1.

That may be how a teacher has a “math conversation” with young students under a new approach to math education piloted by Washington University’s Institute for School Partnership, called Math314. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 8, 2010 - Shaire Strong-Duncan changed her mind about her original career choice, probation and parole, because she decided she didn't want to carry a gun.

Instead, she went into a profession where she was presented with a survival kit of a bottle of water, a granola bar, Post-It notes, pencils, hand sanitizer and a box of Kleenex -- and those got used a lot.

Iris Jackson works with first-graders at Patrick Henry Downtown Academy in St. Louis on a reading comprehension assignment. Jackson is a resident teacher at the school.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

A group of middle-aged adults is back in school this fall. This time, though, they’re at the front of the classroom learning how to be teachers.

St. Louis Teacher Residency, launched over the summer, is recruiting adults to change careers to work in education, hoping their life experience and maturity will lead to less burnout and longer tenures among urban educators.

Danielle and Adam Dowd with their daughter, Alice.
Provided by Danielle Dowd

Like talking about the “facts of life,” or “the birds and the bees,” many parents and teachers know that discussing race and racism is necessary in helping young people learn about life.

St. Louis Public Radio reporter Tim Lloyd presented “A Teachable Moment,” a three-part series that examined how area teachers are leading discussions in their classrooms about issues raised after Michael Brown was fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer in August.

Debbie Sobeck and her fifth grade class at Kennerly Elementary School discussing the events of Sept. 11.
Julie Bierach / St. Louis Public Radio

How do educators teach about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, especially with students too young to remember the tragedy?  

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 17, 2013 - Math teachers Carol DeFreese and Luis Actis have spent part of their summer trying to make sure that the phrase “word problems” doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of future students.

The two are part of an elite group of teachers recruited to write lesson plans to help students master the skills included in the common core standards. They spent a few days in San Francisco to train for the LearnZillion Dream Team. Then they began writing lesson plans to make sure that the concepts the new standards are designed to get across can be translated into solid classroom experiences.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 18, 2013: A new nationwide survey that rates teacher-preparation programs gave many of them poor grades, saying that they are doing a dismal job in preparing a new generation of classroom leaders at a time when schools are developing more rigorous courses of study.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 3, 2013 - Opponents of an initiative-petition proposal that requires a new evaluation process for teachers, and does away with tenure protections, have filed a lawsuit challenging the proposal’s ballot summary, which they say would mislead voters.

Among other things, the ballot summary doesn’t mention the word “tenure.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 27, 2012 - I didn’t go to high school in St. Louis. And while I married a native, and raised three, I have lived here for only 21 years. Obviously, my authority to speak as a St. Louisan is limited.

On the other hand, being an émigré allows me to feel proud of prideworthy local happenings to a degree that seems less common among indigenous St. Louisans.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 27, 2012 - When classrooms are flipped, the sage on the stage is more likely to be seen on the screen.

The goal, fans of the process say, is developing students who yearn to learn.

To translate: Flipped classrooms are a way to take advantage of students’ growing use of technology by turning traditional ways of teaching on their head.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 19, 2012 - Most education experts will agree that one of the most important factors in improving student achievement is a good teacher.

But there’s not always such a strong consensus on exactly what makes a teacher good.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 8, 2012 - A New York Times article about teacher appreciation day (May 7-11 in Teacher Appreciation Week) started me thinking about my own experience with teachers and teaching. My first grade teacher was Lois Irving, Mrs. Irving to us, of course. She was old school and pushing 80 by the time I was her student. She never seemed old to me. Something about her.

Commentary: What gets reformed in education?

May 2, 2012

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 2, 2012 - Here's something I need to learn: how to stop feeling like banging my head against a wall whenever I read the latest the news about the reform of public education.

Among the 165 education-related bills the Missouri Legislature is considering this term are two that also appear on the website of StudentsFirst, a national organization headed by former D.C. school chancellor and self-proclaimed reformer Michelle Rhee.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 9, 2011 - Depending on your age, your taste in movies and your relationship to education, your image of a teacher on the big screen could be Sidney Poitier in "To Sir, With Love," Edward James Olmos in "Stand and Deliver" or even Cameron Diaz in "Bad Teacher."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 30, 2011 - Gov. Jay Nixon took time Wednesday morning to visit a science class at Soldan International Studies High School, where the students study and conduct experiments. Then he announced nearly $213,000 in help for an experiment in education that has benefited Soldan and many other schools in the St. Louis area: Teach For America.

Commentary: Educating as a personal art

May 15, 2011

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 15, 2011 - "At least I don't dread coming to this class," a senior said the other day. Naturally, I took this as a compliment. What teacher of high school seniors would not? We feed off such crumbs. Graduation is getting closer, and it is beginning to matter less and less to my students what happens in class. So goes the conventional wisdom.

Commentary: Educators struggle to treat autoimmune diseases

Mar 16, 2011

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 16, 2011 - I recently went for an eye examine. One of the technicians assisting and testing me told me she was a teacher. I learned she had taught in a North County school district and then in a St. Charles County school district. She remarked how much she loved teaching and the kids and had wanted to be a teacher from third grade. She taught high school, but I failed to ask in what subject.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 28, 2011 - "I AM RETIRED NOW -- THAT MEANS DON'T ASK ME TO DO A DAMN THING."

The plaque that holds this quote rests on the desk of Mary Spencer, a 73-year-old retired St. Louis Public School teacher.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 15, 2010 - The jobs of 3,200 teachers in Missouri who face possible layoffs could be saved if Congress approves $500 million to aid state education programs nationwide.

But a move toward getting that money by taking it out of the administration's Race to the Top educational reform program was criticized Thursday by Chris Nicastro, Missouri's commissioner of elementary and secondary education, as the wrong approach.

Take Five: Teacher and author Rafe Esquith

Jul 14, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 14, 2010 -When one googles teacher Rafe Esquith, the first thing that pops up is the Hobart Shakespearean website dedicated entirely to his now famous classroom No. 56, in which his students perform each year a Shakespearean play.

Nothing is mentioned in that website about his National Medal of Arts, Oprah Winfrey's $100,000 "Use Your Life Award," his honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire or any of his other awards -- on purpose.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 10, 2009 - As fifth graders cleared their desks and packed their book bags one recent afternoon at Bowles Elementary School in the Rockwood School District, their teacher, Edna Campbell, reminded herself once more, "This is the best move I ever made."

After 21 years, Campbell is still thankful for the day her curiosity led her to become an exchange/transfer teacher at Bowles, leaving her regular job at Marshall Elementary School in St. Louis.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 17, 2009 - Two St. Louis area teachers are headed for the White House. Susan Carter of Glenridge Elementary in Clayton and Kamilla Riek of the Mehlville school district were named winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 16, 2009 - After months of devoting time to the controversies involved in closing some St. Louis public schools, Superintendent Kelvin Adams turned his attention today to less volatile but still far-reaching proposals to retrain teachers and improve student achievement.

Adams intends to present his ideas during tonight's meeting of the Special Administrative Board. The centerpiece proposal is to hire academic or teaching coaches, to be called teaching-learning specialists. At a cost of $10.4 million, this is the most expensive of the plans Adams is announcing tonight.

Stay in teaching or get out after two years?

Apr 7, 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 7, 2009 - Stay in teaching or get out after two years? Anyone who’s ever taken part in Teach For America, the program that places college grads in low-income schools, has wrestled with that question. 

But the question of the night Monday was this: Stay in St. Louis or get out after two years?

Commentary: Who will help teach the teachers?

Feb 1, 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 1, 2009 - It seemed so right. Leslie Lewin, who since sixth grade had a passion to teach, was confident she could instruct and inspire her middle school charges. After all, she would be working in the very building that hosted her affirming experience as a student teacher. But a year later, Leslie was doing math in a bank, not a classroom.

From day one, she groped for a comfort level. She felt overwhelmed, even panicky, as she struggled with discipline problems and other issues.