What qualities constitute a great teacher? A select group of America's teachers have been honored by their toughest critics their former students in the sixth edition of "Who's Who Among America's Teachers, 2000."
"There is no greater honor teachers can receive than to be recognized by former students for their excellence and dedication," Paul Krouse, publisher of the "Who's Who" book said. "In this publication we clearly have the best teachers in America selected by their best students."
Five local educators are honored in "Who's Who Among America's Teachers."
JAMES L. COOPER
"I wanted the information I taught to be relevant, so I tried real hard to make it so for my students. I also had something worthwhile for them to do every day that would make the learning fun."
After 30 years of teaching, Cooper retired from Moffat County High School in 1999.
"I do kind of miss the kids," he said.
Cooper taught biological and environmental science, and a course in electronics, to ninth- through 12th-graders. He holds a bachelors degree in biological science from the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, and a masters in education from Adams State College. Cooper and his wife of many years are now enjoying the freedom of retirement, with all their children grown, and live near Hamilton, Colo.
Cooper chose teaching as a career because he loves science and thought teaching was the best way to be involved in doing something he loves.
"And I love the outdoors," he said. "Teachers get three months off every summer to be outdoors!"
He believes his former students selected him because they enjoyed the subject matter and his classes.
"They must have felt they got something out of the class why else would a student nominate their teacher for this honor?"
DONALD DAVID GUFFY
"My philosophy of education can be summed up in a quote from Haim Ginott: 'I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my personal approach that creates the climate. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As the teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.' "
An educator for 31 years, Guffy is currently the Dean of Students at Craig Middle School and also teaches two geography classes. He has held various teaching positions at that school for the past 26 years and has coached wrestling for 22 years at both the middle school and the high school.
Guffy's wife, Janice, teaches fifth grade at Craig Intermediate School. They have been married for 33 years and their son, Shahn, teaches fifth grade at an elementary school in Parachute, Colo.
Guffy holds a bachelors degree from Western State College with majors in social studies, physical education and elementary education. He received his master's degree in education from Adams State College.
Guffy chose education as a profession because he likes to work with young people.
"It makes me happy when they are successful," he said. "I have always felt that I could make a positive difference in their lives."
This is his second nomination for inclusion among America's best teachers.
"I am very humbled to be nominated," he said. "My first nomination came from Daniel Linsacum, and this second nomination came from Melanie Barber. I am not sure why they nominated me for this honor. However, If I were to guess, I would have to say that the nominations were made because of mutual respect that came about through relationships developed while they were students and athletes. These relationships have had a lasting impact on me and, I hope, on them."
ROGER J. SPEARS
"I try to be creative with science, and help students apply what they're learning. Once they leave through the classroom door, then the learning begins. I just foster the spark. We have lots of classroom discussions on current events and news, and I tie those discussions back into science to help make it relevant to their lives."
This is Spears' 11th year as a teacher, but he has been in Craig for six years. He teaches two sections of chemistry at Colorado Northwest Community College, and three sections of Chemistry I to upperclassmen at Moffat County High School.
Spears is the coach/sponsor for the high school Knowledge Bowl, assistant baseball coach, and the co-science chair. He holds a bachelors degree in geology from Western State College and a masters in technology in education from Lesley College, Cambridge, Mass.
Spear's wife, Sheryl, works as a Title I Aid at Ridgeview Elementary, and they have a seven month old daughter, Sierra.
Spears decided he wanted to teach after working as a youth program director with YMCA of the Rockies. "My philosophy of teaching is that you have to enjoy what you're doing. If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't be doing it. And I have excellent kids and an excellent staff to work with," he said. This is the third time Spears has been nominated for the teachers Who's Who list.
"I would hope the nominations have been made through enthusiasm and the students being very highly motivated. Science is an extremely energetic discipline, always changing. Students must develop a rapport with science, and be always curious about science," he said.
NORM D. YOAST
"I just like kids. Once you figure them out, they're easy to work with. I try to make the classes fun and then it's easy for them to understand science."
Yoast moved to Craig in 1993, after teaching for five years in Leadville and Monte Vista. He teaches life science to seventh-graders and physical science and advanced science/Riverwatch to eighth-graders. Yoast also coaches seventh grade boys basketball and eighth grade girls basketball. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Yampa Valley Legacy Education Initiative.
Yoast holds a bachelor's degree in geology and biology from Western State College, Gunnison. His wife, Deb, teaches mathematics at Craig Middle School. They have two children, Lindsey, 8, and Colten, 4.
Yoast enjoys the age group at middle school and loves science. He said he is looking forward to starting a new interdisciplinary and integrated science curriculum, with hands-on learning, next year.
"I'm not sure, but I think my students nominated me for this probably because I care about them and care about trying to make science fun for them," he said.
TIMOTHY ALLEN HURST
Craig Intermediate School teachers Hurst was also chosen for the Who's Who list but was unavailable for comment or photo.
All of the approximately 114,000 teachers being honored in the book were selected by their former students, who are currently listed in "Who's Who Among American High School Students" or "The National Dean's List." The two publications recognize five percent of the nation's high school and college students respectively.
The students were requested to nominate the one teacher from their entire academic career who "made a difference in their lives" by helping to shape their values, inspiring interest in a particular subject, or challenging them to strive for excellence.
Many students commented on the enthusiasm and knowledge teachers demonstrated in the classroom, and many praised teachers for their ability to relate to youngsters on a personal as well as a professional level. One student wrote about her teacher:
"She made education something pleasurable, instead of a dreadful ordeal by letting me spread my wings and showing me the best way to fly."