Northwest Horizons

Is the Teacher of the Year voting system flawed?

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Everyone has their favorite teacher.  The teacher who doesn’t give homework.  The teacher who prepares her students well.  The teacher who makes his students laugh.  The teacher who makes information relatable.

No matter why you think your teacher is the best, we can all agree they deserve recognition for their work.

That’s just what Teacher of the Year and Rookie Teacher of the Year (an award for an outstanding first-year teacher) aim to do.  

However, students have no part in this process. Teachers nominate and vote for whom they deem deserving of Teacher of the Year. Rookie Teacher of the Year is selected solely by the administration.

One pro to this current selection process is that staff members and the administration have a more comprehensive, behind-the-scenes point of view.  Students might be biased and may solely favor the “easy” teacher who doesn’t give homework or is lenient on rules.  Also, each student only has six or seven teachers per year; there are many exceptional teachers who might not get recognized because they don’t teach the bulk of the student body.

Furthermore, fellow staff members can see all the work a teacher has done throughout his or her career, while most students are only privy to a short-term view of a teacher’s work. Students are only with teachers for one, maybe two, years, while some faculty members have worked alongside each other for more than 20 years. 

“There’s a lot of stuff teachers do behind the scenes that students don’t really see,” chemistry teacher Ashlee Clark, who won Rookie Teacher of the Year in 2016, said. “So if you’re just voting on the teacher you like or the teacher that gives you the least homework, it’s not really about that. It’s about other stuff students don’t really care about and don’t really see.”  

However, while students could be biased and short-sighted in their selection, fellow teachers might be, too. At a school the size of Northwest, many teachers don’t interact with one another.  A teacher in the CTE building is less likely to know a colleague in the upstairs New Building.  Additionally, Teacher of the Year has been dubbed a “popularity contest” by some because those teachers who are less socially involved with their colleagues may go unnoticed despite an exemplary performance in the classroom.

Lastly, students also see how their teachers perform on a day-to-day basis that maybe isn’t shown in periodic evaluations or faculty meetings.  

“I think the students should be able to vote,” freshman Olivia Tapp said.  “We should listen to students’ opinions.  Not just adult-wise, but kids, too.”

The current selection process for Teacher of the Year and Rookie Teacher of the Year does work as fantastic teachers have been honored over the years. It is also the same system that other schools throughout the county and state use.

However, there are things the staff could do to make it better.  To give students a voice and perhaps to shine a light on the under-acknowledged teachers, the staff could add a Student-Picked Teacher of the Year and  allow students to select and vote for their favorite teacher. Then for the traditional Teacher of the Year and Rookie Teacher of the Year, the school can continue the staff voting and administrative selection, respectively. 

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Is the Teacher of the Year voting system flawed?