Guest Blog: BIST Manager Reflects on the Bold Impact of Educators this National Teacher Appreciation Week

Guest Blog by Nick Oddo, BIST Manager

Prior to joining Cornerstones of Care as a BIST Consultant, I had the tremendous honor of spending eight years as a classroom teacher. To put it simply, I loved every moment of it.

My dream of pursuing a career in education was heavily influenced by none other than Mr. Dunn, my high school algebra teacher. Mr. Dunn was a phenomenal math teacher, and he was incredibly skilled at building relationships with students and creating a sense of community in his classroom. Like many high school seniors, I was ready to be finished with school and move on to the next phase of my life, but I loved Mr. Dunn’s class, and it had nothing to do with algebra. Instead, it was Mr. Dunn’s quirky yet endearing, wholesome personality and his dry sense of humor that pulled me in.

As an example, his classroom overlooked the circle drive where the buses lined up each day for dismissal. When the buses started to arrive, he would drop everything and excitedly proclaim, “Hey, the buses are here! We must be getting out after this!” This was news to no one because his class was during the final period of the day. However, even the too-cool-for-school seniors looked forward to his daily joke – and if he ever forgot to say it, you could guarantee someone would remind him. I’m grateful for teachers like Mr. Dunn, and I wanted to be like him when I had a classroom of my own.

Today, as a BIST Consultant, I have the great privilege of supporting amazing teachers like Mr. Dunn, who commit themselves to the work of making an impact on the lives of students. Though I see it every day, that commitment never ceases to amaze me. Despite the many demands and challenges they face, teachers show up determined to be a positive force in the lives of their students. 

Most recently, I have been enamored with the outstanding work being done by Guadalupe Centers Middle School, particularly the sixth-grade team’s impact on a student named *Jeremy.

Creating sustainable transformation for any student requires a great deal of vulnerability on behalf of the adults. Vulnerability is key when adults put a plan in place to help a student begin their journey toward accountability and change. In that early stage, there is no way for teachers to know what the outcome will be, and yet, as BIST Consultants, we ask them to lean into that uncertainty. The sixth-grade team did just that when embarking on their journey with Jeremy, and their vulnerability, dedication, and support of one another were critical in facilitating Jeremy’s success during the school year.

While writing this guest blog, I had the opportunity to talk with some of the sixth-grade team about this journey.

“When we come to our team meetings, our focus is always on what is best for this student,” said Christopher Leavens, sixth-grade English teacher and member of Jeremy’s support team. “Our group has never been about venting or storytelling, and I think that’s a big credit to the culture that’s been established in our group.”

Mr. Leavens also highlighted the importance of a shared vision on behalf of all teachers when problem solving for students.

“We all bring like-mindedness in that we all have the same vision and mission, which is to make sure that the time we spend together planning is to best serve the students that we have.” 

The teams’ support of one another at the adult level was also vital in their work with Jeremy.

When teachers work with students who need additional behavioral support, they often experience increased emotion and stress. This is hard work, and it can feel exhausting, overwhelming, and isolating. The ability to come together and support one another is paramount in creating sustainable transformation for students, as this work simply cannot be done alone. In some instances, that means recognizing that students may have a better connection with some adults than others. Over time, this has the potential to become polarizing at the adult level, ultimately making success for the student much more difficult.

Selena Resendiz, the sixth-grade math teacher, shared her thoughts on the issue.

“We have built a culture where if I learn a student has a better relationship with another teacher, I feel even more supported because it’s now two of us working with one student.”

This speaks to the high level of trust built throughout the entire adult community at Guadalupe Centers Middle School and their shared commitment to the success of all students.

Because of their efforts, the sixth-grade team was able to help Jeremy achieve new levels of success this school year, not only behaviorally but academically as well.

“You can see Jeremy feels supported, where before he didn’t trust the process, and he always thought we were trying to ‘get him,’” said Greg Seibold, sixth-grade English Language Arts teacher. “It was just a matter of helping him see we all want the same thing, which is for him to be successful.”

The team’s efforts also had an impact on Jeremy’s mother, who was an important person in the transformation process.

“His mom works in the building, and she was hesitant to come to school because she was afraid to get another bad report,” said Mr. Seibold. “By the end, she was so thrilled because she could see Jeremy’s growth. Her tears of joy were worth everything, and it’s why we do it.”

This National Teacher Appreciation Week, I’m grateful for the work being done by teachers at Guadalupe Centers Middle School and for teachers like Mr. Dunn, who inspire young people to follow their passions and find their purpose. I’m grateful for educators everywhere who put everything they have into helping their students find the success they deserve. 

*name changed to protect privacy