Teacher of the year preaches passion for job

Jackie McLean

‘If you inspire kids, they’ll learn,’ seventh-grade instructor says

For Michael Geisen, a seventh-grade science teacher from Prineville, Ore., the objective of teaching is not to produce “Jeopardy” champions.

Geisen was named the 2008 National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers, a national organization of officials who head elementary and secondary schools. Yesterday, he spoke to a group of education majors and faculty in the Kiva about his vision for education in the 21st century.

“We’ve got to experience life for what it really is and engage students by making class interesting,” Geisen said, adding that teachers must apply more creative teaching methods in the classroom.

The event was co-sponsored by Kent Student Education Association and the College of Education, Health and Human Services. Linda Robertson, director of the Center for International and Intercultural Education, helped coordinate the event.

“Every year we try to have the national teacher of the year here at Kent State, and we’re one of seven sites, not universities, but sites that they visit yearly,” Robertson said. “We use it as a motivation for our undergraduate students who are majoring in education so that they can feel good about their profession.”

one-on-one with Michael Geisen

Why did you decide to become a teacher? I was actually a forester before I was a teacher. I spent several years working in the forest industry, and after a while, there wasn’t a lot of inspiration left in it. I wasn’t getting out of bed in the morning, and I wanted something where I could really give to the community and interact with people. I love kids, and I love science, so I thought this just kind of fits, and its worked out pretty good for me.

What do you think is the most important issues today dealing with education and how would you change it? One is really the achievement gap between the haves and have-nots. Some school districts are excelling in terms of how we measure them because of their social economic status. Basically, its a well-to-do neighborhood or a good solid middle-class neighborhood where students are doing great, but in the poorer areas – the inner cities or rural areas — students are not getting a quality education. They’re not being inspired, and they’re dropping out in huge numbers, and that’s a huge issue.

What are some challenges you faced in the classroom?Students come in with so much baggage and so many issues they are dealing with in their emotional state, especially in middle school and not to mention the social scene, puberty, hormones. It’s tough but that’s what makes it sort of rewarding.

What advice would you like to give to students who want to pursuer a career in teaching? I would say just pour your heart into it. Love the kids and be bold and courageous in the way that you teach. Teach creativity, teach the whole child, and know that the rest will come. If you inspire kids, they’ll learn.

Contact College of Education, Health and Human Services reporter Jackie McLean at [email protected].