5th Grade teacher at Hobart Elementary, L.A., California
National Medal of Arts Recipient / Disney Teacher of the Year
I teach because I was raised by a mother and father who told me that a life without service is a wasted life.
Early on I realized that I had a way with kids so I decided to teach. To do what good teachers do is hard. As
society has lowered its expectations, schools have lowered their expectations. We tell our children they are
doing a great job when they really aren’t. I don’t do that. I challenge these children. I tell them, “Yes, you’are
going to have to sacrifice to become a great guitar player or mathematician or actor, but, the work and the
payoff for that work is worth it.”
Teachers are role models. They have to be what they want the children to be. After many years of teaching
and many years of failing, I realized that I wanted kids who were nice and worked hard, which meant that I had
to be the nicest person they ever met and the hardest working person they knew. I now have kids telling their
parents that this is the best class they have ever attended and they actually complain to their parents if they
are late getting them to class.
Yvonne Chan, Ph.D.
Vaughn Charter School Principal
I was here as a principal before Vaughn was a charter school. I probably would have quit education if not for
making Vaughn a charter school. As a regular public school principal, I was in charge of the three B’s, Bussing,
Budget and covering my Butt. This is not why I came to this country and not why I feel I need to be in education.
We, the teachers, are an educated group of people. If we are united, we can do better.
Our role now is to find all of the “can do’s” for the school. Now I employ the six R’s, Rigorous standards, Results
oriented, Resources rich, Resiliency, Responsibility and Relationships. The future belongs to the educated. We
went from an API score of 443 to 701. We never feared, never blinked and never looked back. After 12 years,
we have earned the respect of the community and the L.A. school district.
Mel Levine, M.D.
Professor of Pediatrics, University of NC Medical School
Co-Founder, All Kinds of Minds Institute
Early in my career, I got involved with a group of kids that were quite smart but were having trouble in
school. I started searching for the reasons that these kids were having trouble with reading, writing,
doing math or concentrating. When Charles Schwab and I started All Kinds of Minds, we wanted to bring
together the best clinical and academic minds with the best business minds. The people in the business
world have the insight we need to get the word out to the public about education.
All Kinds of Minds doesn’t label kids. We don’t have ADD, no LD and no ADHD. We talk about different
parts of the child’s attention and how strong and weak they are. Just calling some one ADD is an over
simplification and does a tremendous injustice and could hurt the child in the long run. Attention deficit is
rarely seen by itself. It may be accompanied by trouble with memory, the ability to express one’s self, the
ability to understand sequence and poor social skills. By medicating the student for attention deficit, it
tends to cover up the other symptoms and can cause trouble down the line.
The field of learning disorders is the only field that went out and chose its tests before it decided what
the problems were and there after, you were only permitted to have something if it was on the tests. Do
you know how many patients we would have killed if medical doctors had that philosophy?
Rote learning doesn't take you to high level thinking. When you get that type of education, can you really
apply it to life? We need an educational system that enables you to ask the question that wasn't asked.
I had two really great teachers.
I was very shy in first grade and my teacher, Mrs. Johnson, would have me come up to the front of the
class and circle the date on the calendar every morning. She saw something in me and it was her way of
getting me to open up and become part of the class.
Ms. Denney was my drama teacher in High School and she would fill you up with a million reasons to
succeed. You weren't aware that you were working hard for her because you wanted her applause and
when you got it, you knew you had accomplished something.
I wish that education today could be more inspiring and the stress and the competitive nature could be
taken away. I don't think kids need to be under that much pressure.
Rick Lavoie, M.A., M.Ed.
Author “Last One Picked, First One Picked On: The Social Implications of Learning Disabilities
Many institutions that were instrumental in our communities 25 or 30 years ago simply don’t exist today.
The impact of the Church has decreased. The Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Little League aren’t what
they used to be. Because people are moving all over the country, the extended family doesn’t exist like
it used to. Every time one of these institutions fall by the wayside, society looks at the schools, the only
institution still standing, and says, “Why don’t you do what they used to do?” Schools are being asked
to do things they were never asked to do before, AND make sure that the test scores are high.
I think the world of education is beginning to wake up to the fact that special education teachers have
some secrets that are applicable to all kids. Special education is a branch of psychology. It is a different
way of looking at kids and how they learn. Regular education looks at schools like an assembly line.
We, the special education teachers, look at students as individuals. You have to ask yourself, if these
techniques and strategies work with special needs kids, why wouldn’t they work even more effectively
with kids who aren’t struggling with education?
As kids go into the world with the knowledge explosion that we are seeing, the most important thing we
can do is not teach kids stuff, we need to teach kids how to research, find, and use information.
Currently, we are using a closed book format in schools to prepare kids for an open book world.
Pedro Noguera, Ph.D.
Professor, The Steinhardt School of Education, New York University
I think that Charter schools are an innovation that is worth supporting. The idea of having a school that is not
encumbered by all the district’s rules and procedures, and is designed by a group of teachers and the
community is a good one. However, we should be clear that there are a wide variety of charter schools out there.
Some are good and some are not so good.
Teach for America is a good program, but not perfect. They recruit some of the brightest college graduates in
the country to be teachers for 2 years. They take these very bright graduates, but give them very little training
and put them in the worst schools in the country which is not a recipe for success. The alternative is to hire
anyone who can meet the minimum requirements to become a teacher, a worse alternative. At least Teach For
America is getting people who are smart and who want to teach.
For public education to work, the public has to be involved. They have to go to school board meetings and make
sure that the schools receive the support they need.
Torrence H. Robinson
Texas Instruments Outreach Program
A decade ago, Texas Instruments made an investment in early childhood reading.
The shift of our corporate foundation is now more towards science, math and technology, particularly in the
middle and high school areas. We are beginning to work on student achievement in algebra because that is
one of the gatekeeper courses for students pursuing higher levels of math and science.
It makes business sense for Texas Instruments to make these types of investments because the lifeblood and
future of this company is talent. Businesses must reinvest in the community so that they can reap the benefits.
Celeste H. Pea, Ph.D.
National Science Foundation
The Presidential award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science was started in 1983 to recognize the most
talented math and science teachers in the nation. We always hear about the bad teachers, but rarely hear
about the teachers that go to work every day without the necessary supplies or administrative support but
still do a fantastic job of teaching our kids.
We participate in teacher development to encourage teachers to become more versed in the subject matter,
which is changing all of the time, and to get the kids to see math and science as something that they can
enjoy doing. We help teachers to encourage kids to inquire and explore so that math and science become
real and usable for them. This may not be the way that teachers are used to teaching and often times
teachers need to adjust their teaching belief system.
Dean of the Michael D. Eisner College of Education
California State University at Northridge
Education is a business, a very important business and a very big business. As with business practices, the
right partnerships make sense. The idea of co-teaching is to bring two fully qualified teachers together who
can complement each other’s abilities. Teaching is far more powerful as a team.
Chime school is successful because it grew out of special education. Special education teachers have
always had to fight against prejudice, they have always had to struggle for money and they have always
had to convince administration that their kids can learn. Special education teachers tend to be more
For a long time, teachers were prepared to do X, and assume that a particular result would occur. Now we
are saying that there must be results for each child but the teacher has to find the way. I think we are
finally going to link teaching to learning in a more positive way.