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YouTube / TED

5 Terrific Teachers

YouTube / TED
YouTube / TED

Teachers are heroes. Without teachers, I wouldn't be able to read, write, or bring you this list of wonderful people. Read on.

1. Kathy Pitt, Fifth Grade Teacher

Kathy Pitt figured out a simple way to find out which students in her fifth grade class were struggling, being ostracized, being bullied, or generally needed more of her attention. Every Friday, Pitt asks her students to nominate one of their peers whom they think is “an exceptional classmate.” The nominations, along with answers to a few similar questions, are submitted privately to her on notecards.

Pitt then identifies the students who receive the fewest nominations, or who themselves are unwilling or unable to nominate others. It’s a simple indicator of issues that aren’t always visible to the teacher when she's standing at the front of the class. She says she has been using the technique “Every single Friday afternoon since Columbine.” A mother of a student in Pitt's class brought national attention to Pitt when she blogged about the practice earlier this year.

Pitt teaches in Naples, Florida. You can see photos of her classroom in a gallery from the Naples Daily News.

2. Kent Knappenberger, Music Teacher

Kent Knappenberger is the winner of the 2014 Music Educator Award, presented by The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation. Judges received thousands of nominations, but Knappenberger stood out -- and not just for his amazing beard. He said, "I think it's my job to try to approach children in a way that I can try to find something musical in them. And sometimes in the kid you think shouldn't have some musical gifting, if you start looking -- wow! It's there! And amazing things happen."

Knappenberger, known as "Mr. K." to his students, also runs a farm with his wife. Of the farm, he said, "I think I went through a midlife crisis a couple of years ago and said 'I need to have a cow.'" In addition to having a cow, he and his wife have nine kids, eight of whom are adopted.

If you know a music teacher who deserves recognition, you can nominate him or her online.

3. John Masterson, Social Studies Teacher

In January, John Masterson convinced a boy who brought a shotgun into his New Mexico school to put it down. The 12-year-old shooter had already injured two students in a crowded gym when Masterson intervened.

NBC News reported:

[Masterson] was facing away from the shooter, and the shooter away from him, when the first shot was fired. The teacher thought it was a firecracker, [Gov. Susana Martinez] said.

The teacher wheeled around and saw the young man fire more shots before he pointed the gun at Masterson, she said. The teacher talked to him and urged him to put the gun down.

The shooter put the gun down and raised his hands, and Masterson put him up against a wall, the governor said. Just then, an off-duty state police officer arrived — he was dropping his own son off at the school — and they contained the student.

“I'm still the same person,” Masterson said in one interview. “I just had something happen. An event that happened and I don't feel like it changed me.” In addition to teaching Social Studies, Masterson also coaches soccer and track in Roswell, New Mexico.

4. Dr. Rita Pierson, Teacher

Dr. Rita Pierson was a teacher her entire adult life, teaching elementary school, junior high, special ed, and more. Her parents were educators, her grandparents were educators, and Pierson herself began teaching in 1972, so she has some experience in the field. Last year she wrote for The Huffington Post:

“Teachers don't make a lot of money. They are usually not deemed worthy of news coverage unless there is a scandal or a strike. Most of the time, their major accomplishments are shared only with colleagues and family members and not the media. The celebration is often cut short by some catastrophe the next day. Yet, in spite of the highs and lows, I cannot think of another profession that brings both joy and challenge on a daily basis.”

Pierson is on this list not because of a scandal, a strike, or a catastrophe -- but because she was an inspiring, dedicated teacher. She spent four decades in the classroom, and in 2012 she gave the TED Talk above, which has been viewed more than 2.7 million times. She passed away in 2013.

5. Taylor Mali, English Teacher/Slam Poet

"I make parents see their children for who they are, and who they can be," says Taylor Mali in his performance of "What Teachers Make," a poem about his teaching career in New York City. Have a look:

After nine years teaching, Mali is now a full-time poet, speaker, and author. He's all over YouTube, and he has apparently inspired a lot of people to teach. From his website:

[Mali's] 12-year long Quest for One Thousand Teachers, completed in April of 2012, helped create 1,000 new teachers through “poetry, persuasion, and perseverance,” an achievement Mali commemorated by donating 12″ of his hair to the American Cancer Society.

Here's one more nice performance by Mali, set in kinetic typography:

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Why Reading Aloud Helps You Remember More Information
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If you're trying to commit something to memory, you shouldn't just read the same flashcard over and over. You should read it aloud, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

The research, published in the journal Memory, finds that the act of reading and speaking text aloud is a more effective way to remember information than reading it silently or just hearing it read aloud. The dual effect of both speaking and hearing helps encode the memory more strongly, the study reports. The new research builds on previous work on the so-called production effect by Waterloo psychologist Colin MacLeod, who is also one of the current paper's authors.  

The current study tested 95 college students over the course of two semesters, asking them to remember as many words as possible from a list of 160 nouns. At one session, they read a list of words into a microphone, then returned two weeks later for a follow-up. In some situations, the participants read the words presented to them aloud, while in others, they either heard their own recorded voice played back to them, heard recordings of others reading the words, or read the words silently to themselves. Afterward, they were tested to see how much they remembered from the list.

The participants remembered more words if they had read them aloud compared to all other conditions, even the one where people heard their own voices reading the words. However, hearing your own voice on its own does seem to have some effect: it was a better memory tool for participants than hearing someone else speak, perhaps because people are good at remembering things that involve them. (Or maybe, the researchers suggest, it's just because people find it so bizarre to hear their own recorded voice that it becomes a salient memory.)

The findings "suggest that production is memorable in part because it includes a distinctive, self-referential component," the researchers write. "This may well underlie why rehearsal is so valuable in learning and remembering: We do it ourselves, and we do it in our own voice. When it comes time to recover the information, we can use this distinctive component to help us to remember."

The message is loud and clear: If you want to remember, you should both read it and speak it aloud.

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The Brooklyn Public Library is Now Home to a Tiny Mollusk Museum
Courtesy of MICRO
Courtesy of MICRO

The Brooklyn Public Library is one of America’s largest public libraries—and now, its lobby is home to what’s being billed as the world’s smallest mollusk museum (and its first, no less). The vending machine-sized installation contains 15 different educational “displays,” all of which highlight fun facts about bivalves, snails, octopuses, and other soft-bodied creatures, according to The Washington Post.

Installed on November 10, the mollusk museum is the brainchild of Amanda Schochet, a computational ecologist, and media producer Charles Philipp. In 2016 they co-founded MICRO, a nonprofit organization that makes and distributes compact science museums.

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

“Science museums are amazing,” the duo said in a video about their company, which is supported by Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation. “There’s just not enough of them. They’re all in wealthier neighborhoods. It’s fundamentally important for everyone to have access. So we decided to reinvent the museum, taking everything that we love about museums and putting it inside a box that can go anywhere.”

The factory-made museums are designed in collaboration with scientists, and created using 3D printing techniques. They’re easily reproduced, and can be set up anywhere, including libraries, airports, or even the DMV.

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

The BPL’s Smallest Mollusk Museum is MICRO’s first public project. Why mollusks, you might ask? For one thing, they survive in every habitat on Earth, and have evolved over hundreds of millions of years. Plus, a mollusk museum of any type—large or small—didn’t exist yet, as Schochet learned after she once misheard Philipp say he was going to the world’s “mollusk museum.” (He was instead going to the “smallest” one, located inside a Manhattan elevator shaft.)

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

The Smallest Mollusk Museum is “packed with exhibits including miniature movie theaters, 3D-printed sculptures of octopus brains and leopard slug hugs, optical illusions showing visitors what it’s like to experience the world as mollusks, and a holographic mollusk aquarium,” Schochet tells Mental Floss. “We've identified nearly 100,000 species of mollusks, but there could be as many as 200,000—they’re all around us, all the time. Every one of them is a lens onto a bigger universe.”

Librarians have also joined in on the mollusk mania, prepping an accompanying series of books for kids and adults about the many creatures featured in the museum's exhibits.

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

The Smallest Mollusk Museum will gradually circulate through several of the library system’s branches. Meanwhile, MICRO’s next public offering will be a second mollusk museum, which will open in the Ronald McDonald House in New York City in December 2017. Additional locations and projects—including a small physics museum called the Perpetual Motion Museum—will be announced soon.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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