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2014 Teacher of the Year on “A Place Called School”

2014 teacher of the year sean mccomb
2014 National Teacher of the Year Sean McComb spoke at the 2016 National Blue Ribbon Schools ceremony.

Sean McComb, 2014 National Teacher of the Year, after reviewing the many options before him, elected to go back to the classroom. “I’m a high school teacher,” he told the audience, “I don’t give up easily.” McComb described his own childhood in evoking “a place called school” where he–and countless other students–found, and find, safety and encouragement. When he implored the AP English teacher to include him in class even though he hadn’t been chosen for AP, the teacher agreed but warned McComb: “I refuse to lower my expectations for you.” McComb worked his heart out, he said. Citing a meta-analysis on student motivation by John Hattie, he noted that holding students to high expectations can double a teacher’s impact. McComb likened the work of a teacher to that of a sculptor studying a piece of uncut stone: the task  of “hyperseeing,” of seeing, as Michaelangelo did, the David in the block of marble.

He also frankly discussed the kinds of tensions teachers have to master, such as creative intellectual vs. dogged work ethic, firmness and ability to hold the line vs. compassion and grace, and being under-resourced vs. forever hopeful. He charged teachers to claim their identity as teachers, support each other, and foster a spirit of inquiry and mutual development. “Learning is a joint process of mutual development,” he said. Calling on the practice of intentional gratitude, he urged teachers to “spark hope” in students’ for their futures.

Learn more about Sean McComb at his website. Watch the Teaching Channel’s profile of McComb.

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