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21st Century Teaching and the Future: What Iowa’s Teacher of the Year Has to Say

posted on August 25, 2011

21st Century Teaching and the Future: What Iowa’s Teacher of the Year Has to Say

Growing and learning as educators is a message that Iowa’s 2011 Teacher of Year, Molly Boyle, wants to get across to teachers. “Our world is continually changing, and education needs to do its best to keep up with these changes,” said Mrs. Boyle. “If teachers aren’t willing to grow and adapt, then they will fall behind.”

These words should not be taken lightly.

Mrs. Boyle has spent eight of her 15 years in education as an instructional coach, helping other teachers further succeed in their endeavors.  Then two years ago, she decided to go back into the classroom to teach 3rd grade students at Brookview Elementary School in West Des Moines, part of the Waukee Community School District.

“I felt like a first year teacher again,” said Boyle, “but it meant a lot to put into practice what I was doing for other teachers.” She was indeed doing something right, because the following year she was nominated by one of her student’s parents and received the Iowa Teacher of the Year Award. She now travels around the country meeting with other teachers, networking, and joining new educational communities.  Listening to Mrs. Boyle speak and seeing what she has accomplished, it’s clear that she has the qualities of a 21st century teacher.

Twenty-first century teaching has become a common but important theme in the debate over improving education, one that is shared with AEA’s across the state and by U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. It also comes with several definitions from increasing opportunities for collaboration to integrating technology more often into curricula to cultivating problem solving skills. Mrs. Boyle is doing just that.

Aside from being a lifelong learner, Molly works outside of the “silo” mentality of teaching. Instead, she networks with other teachers and professionals and engages her students through various multimedia resources. “Media and technology allow me to tap into how my students learn best,” she said, “without them knowing that they’re actually learning.” The use of multimedia resources, in turn, helps to strengthen her 21st century skills. For example, Mrs. Boyle uses blogs as a way for her students to experience today's global community. “I always ask how will this technology give my students access to things they couldn’t get without it.”

During the rest of the school year, Mrs. Boyle will speak to teachers all over the state and connect with professionals throughout the country, taking what she’s learned back to her students and other teachers.

While engaging in these 21st skills may seem like a daunting task, it’s not.  She argues that teachers need to develop their skills for their students to succeed. “It’s what is needed in order to make a difference in my students’ lives.”



Image courtesy the Iowa Department of Education


Tags: 21st Century Skills 21st Century Teaching education educators elementary teachers Iowa Iowa Learning Online online learning students teachers

Subjects: The ArtsLiteracy & LanguagesMathProfessional DevelopmentScience & TechnologySocial Studies


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