Great Teachers Love Learning
Most of us can recall one or more favorite teachers from school. I encountered my three favorite teachers well along in my educational path. All of them were at one time professors at the University of Oregon, which may or may not have something to do with my love for the Oregon Ducks.
Dr. Robert Sylwester was a professor of education, an author, and was widely known for his study of brain research in education. He passed away at age 89 in 2016.
Dr. Eugene Maier was a mathematician, a professor, and the founder and president of The Math Learning Center. The Maier Math Foundation was named in his honor. He continues to learn and encourage others at the age of 92.
Dr. David Moursund was a mathematician, a computer scientist, a professor, an author, and a charter board member of The Math Learning Center, serving in that position for 44 years. He also founded what has now become the International Society for Technology Education (ISTE).
Last week Dr. Moursund passed away at the age of 84. In his retirement, he was a prolific writer. Most of his books and articles are available free through a nonprofit he started, IAE-PEDIA. He also wrote a bi-weekly newsletter, the last of which he posted the day before his death. Dave was passionate about the future of education. He loved technology and felt it should have an important role in education, one that reflected its important role in the world. But as we know, education moves slowly, and the integration of technological tools into the learning environment is happening at a snail’s pace relative to what we see outside of school. Dave frequently argued that education must include the “4th R”: reasoning and computational thinking. He challenged MLC to focus more on problem-solving skills and less on procedural computation, since computers are capable of superior calculation. I will continue to be inspired by Dave’s love of learning and his challenge to us all to be more reasonable and more humane as we strive to educate into the future.
I will always think of Bob, Gene, and David not only as my favorite teachers but as great teachers and mentors. Why? Because they taught me more about learning and teaching than I ever learned in a classroom. To them, good teachers view their work through a lens clearly focused on the learner and the idea that they too were learners. They seek to understand all aspects of their students’ learning, build instruction on prior understanding, present interesting and challenging problems, bring relevance to the tasks, and recognize mistakes not as failures but as new information. What’s most important, they believe in their students’ ability to learn. Great teachers helped me understand that teaching is not just about imparting knowledge for students to soak up. Teaching begins with knowing the why, how, what, when, and where of students’ learning.