Our Favorite Teachers

Recognizing and Rewarding Educators that Care

Michelle Lagas, Incito Schools, Goodyear, Arizona

Last year a teacher surveyed her students to determine what they believe makes a great teacher. The results of the survey stated that a teacher who shows he/she cares is the most important factor in determining a good teacher. Having content knowledge and providing a safe environment closely followed. These are not surprising results. Thinking back on your own favorite teachers, you probably have the same characteristics come to mind.

A few months ago, another teacher published a blog titled, How Would My Favorite Teacher Do on Today’s Teacher Evaluations? Great topic! You can view the blog post here.

Our Favorite Teachers

The teacher-blogger contends that her own favorite teacher would not perform very well on the evaluation system on which she is currently evaluated. She makes arguments that her favorite teacher’s best qualities, such as showing emotion, connecting through storytelling, and humanizing self-deprecation, are not present in modern teacher evaluation systems. The teacher she describes loved his content, loved his students, and clearly loved teaching. He sounds wonderful. He sounds exactly like the teacher the surveyed students say make the best teachers.


But the blogger may be right, not all teacher evaluation systems have space for these important qualities. But they should. Not just because it reflects what students like, but because research is bearing out that these are the qualities that most affect student learning.

Learning Observation Instrument

In 2010, MCESA collaborated with teachers and school leaders in six Maricopa County school districts to create the teacher evaluation instrument called the Learning Observation Instrument. The instrument is comprised of six rubrics titled Content, Formative Assessment, Instructional Strategies, Learning Engagement, Learning Community, and Professional Responsibilities.

The Learning Observation Instrument was created by educators who highly value teachers excelling in creating relationships with students. It is evident throughout the instrument. Here are a few examples:

Research Findings

Over the past six years of using the Learning Observation Instrument in eleven Maricopa County Local Education Agencies (LEAs), the data is bearing out what teachers and students know: the better the teacher is at building relationships and creating a safe learning community, the better students do academically.

Overall, teachers evaluated using the Learning Observation Instrument that score higher in elements relating to the learning community have more student academic growth — proving that elementary students and teacher-bloggers are absolutely correct. We need to put more focus on creating supportive school cultures, and then assess and reward those efforts in our educators.

If you are interested in the Learning Observation Instrument, you can learn more and download it here.

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