We Surveyed the 2015 State Teachers of the Year

How would teachers prioritize education funding? What aspects of their jobs give them the most satisfaction? What qualities do they believe great teachers have? Do teachers believe higher standards like the Common Core will have a positive impact on students?

As we near the end of the 2014-15 school year, Scholastic had the opportunity to survey this year’s group of State Teachers of the Year. The group of inspirational educators were invited to Washington, D.C., by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which runs the National Teacher of the Year program. A yearly tradition, this group of teachers gathers for several days every April in Washington for a series of events including a White House ceremony hosted by President Obama to honor and announce the National Teacher of the Year. This year, that award went to an incredible high school English teacher from Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, TX, named Shanna Peeples.

We knew we could learn so much from this group of teachers and that their opinions represent those of so many others across the country, so with CCSSO’s help, the teachers were emailed an online survey. Forty-six of them responded.

Some clear themes emerged: Teachers see issues like poverty, family stress and other out-of-school barriers to learning greatly affecting student academic success, and they prioritize things like anti-poverty initiatives, early learning and other community supports and services for funding.

Here are highlights of what we learned from these master teachers. (Click on the images for larger versions.)

1) If these teachers could choose where to focus education funding in order to have the highest impact on student learning, their top priorities would be: Anti-poverty initiatives, early learning, reducing barriers to learning (access to wrap-around services, healthcare, etc.), and professional development/learning.

2) When asked in an open-ended question, “What do you feel is your biggest challenge as teacher?” educators most often cited the need for more time to accomplish everything involved in the day-to-day activities of being a teacher.

3) The teachers said they get the highest job satisfaction from time spent working with students in the classroom – whether one-on-one or teaching whole group lessons. They get the least satisfaction from required paperwork, grading student work and preparing student report cards.

4) Asked what barriers to learning most affect their students’ academic success, 76 percent of teachers cited “Family stress,” 63 percent cited “Poverty,” and 52 percent cited “Learning and psychological problems.”

5) What top qualities do they feel make a good teacher?

6) Ninety-six percent (all but two of the teachers who responded) agreed that higher standards being implemented – Common Core or other high standards – will have a positive impact on student learning.

How would you respond to these questions?

Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook over the course of the next week, and check out our sister blog (On Our Minds), for more quotes, stats and findings from our survey of the 2015 State Teachers of the Year.