Over the summer the world lost a “great” educator to retirement. Bob Shaw worked at Silver Creek High School in Sellersburg, IN, and he helped me learn more about learning than anyone else I have ever met. I can’t tell you exactly what Mr. Shaw’s area of expertise was because the man seemed to guide us towards just about everything. Off the top of my head, I saw him cover web design, computer science, architecture, advanced mathematics, Civil War history, archaeology, social welfare, music, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and the delicious possibilities of Spam.
I often go to great pains to avoid using the word “teacher” when describing Mr. Shaw, because I don’t believe this word accurately captures his spirit. A good teacher delivers engaging lessons with amazing technology. Mr. Shaw was good at this, but, quite honestly, I’ve seen better. A good teacher gives assignments that are interesting and authentic. Mr. Shaw could also do this, but it wasn’t his priority. A good teacher makes you feel special and valued. Mr. Shaw certainly did this, but that’s not why I am still talking about him 20 years later.
Mr. Shaw wasn’t just a good teacher, he was a “great” teacher. He told us that learning was OUR responsibility. Instead of creating an assignment, he laid some ground rules and then shifted the responsibility back onto us. He taught us Bloom’s Taxonomy and told us to propose projects/dates that would allow us to demonstrate mastery of the topic. If you didn’t have a project at a Synthesis and Evaluation level, then...well...let’s just say, “No Spam for you.” Finally, Mr. Shaw DID make us feel special and valued, but he was also very comfortable letting us know when we were slackers. Mr. Shaw defined “rigor” as continuously revising until you submitted something worth receiving feedback.
Since graduation, I have run into classmates from Mr. Shaw’s class over and over again. They are all working in many different professions, but, more often than not, we end up discussing Mr. Shaw, and the impact he had on our careers. Our CEO, Jim Benson, said, “I always give Bob full credit for directing me in the field of technology, but also in life. Mr. Shaw painted a realm of possibilities and opened my eyes.” The consensus is that the learning process in his class was the single greatest preparation we had for what the “real world” actually required of us. It was simple: Mr. Shaw taught us to love learning. Mr. Shaw let us follow our passions. Mr. Shaw put his foot down when we fell short. What made Mr. Shaw “great,” were the lectures he didn’t give, and the canned assignments he never prepared. Mr. Shaw was a great educator because he loved to learn, and his greatest gift of all was sharing that love with his students.
Who are some “great” teachers you had the chance to learn with? What made them better than “good?” With the looming teacher shortage in Indiana, what can we do to keep, create, and retain more “great” teachers like Mr. Shaw? Let us know in the comments!