Book looks at how state’s top teachers make it happen in the classroom

<p class="p1"><span class="s1"><strong>“Defining Teaching Excellence: The Characteristics, Practices and Experiences of Highly Effective Teachers,” by Keith Leger, Ed.D. </strong></span></p>

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<p class="p1">What is it that makes a really great K-12 teacher? Keith Leger lays it all out in his new book, “Defining Teaching Excellence: The Characteristics, Practices and Experiences of Highly Effective Teachers.”

<p class="p3">While earning his doctoral degree in educational leadership, Leger focused on just how the state’s top teachers do what they do. His new book contains excerpts from that doctoral study.

<p class="p3">Leger interviewed teachers from across the state who had perfect evaluation ratings in the 2012-13 school year. Out of 13,700 teachers, only 180 were among this elite group. Leger focuses on 10 of those 180.

<p class="p3">But don’t think this book is a dry, academic read that will put you to sleep. It’s not and it won’t. The chapters are short, with plenty of colorful quotes and insight from these top teachers. 

<p class="p3"><strong>• From Ms. Murray:</strong> “Be goofy, fun, be human. When I make mistakes, I let them know it’s okay to correct me.”

<p class="p3"><strong><strong>• </strong>From Ms. Manning:</strong> “I think that kids are willing to work for me because they like me and can tell that I like them and am here for them.”

<p class="p3"><strong><strong>• </strong>From Ms. Miller:</strong> “I know that if I don’t keep them engaged, that’s when we have behavior problems.”

<p class="p3"><strong><strong>• </strong>The best compliment Ms. O’Brien ever got?</strong> “When a student told me, ‘I always feel so smart in here.’ ”

<p class="p3">A note about the names of the teachers: Don’t try to guess who they are, because the names used in the book are pseudonyms — but do know that five of the 10 are from Southwest Louisiana. 

<p class="p3">So back to that question: What is it that does make a highly effective teacher? 

<p class="p3">“It was and still is my experience and belief that highly effective teachers are those who care,” said Leger. “They care not only in the sense of being compassionate towards their students but also in terms of being thoroughly prepared and organized; caring also by continuously learning about their subject content and methods of pedagogy. They care by ensuring that each student masters the subject grade level academic standards. This is accomplished by reteaching and reassessing which requires time, patience, flexibility and creativity to differentiate instruction to meet students where they are and guide them to where they need to be.”

<p class="p3">In a way, reading “Defining Teaching Excellence” is like learning about a group of Olympic gold medalists. It’s intriguing to read about how people who are the absolute best at what they do actually think and work.   

<p class="p3">With it’s inspiring insights and practical ideas, this book has the potential to be immensely helpful to both novice and experienced teachers. It’s possible it will also give parents of students a new appreciation for what these professionals make happen each day in their children’s classrooms. 

<p class="p3">Leger has dedicated this book to his “Maw-maw,” Anna Mae Primeaux, who although she only completed sixth grade, would always tell him, “Go to school and learn, T-babe.” She also made a great icebox pie, he said.

<p class="p3">Leger is a retired educator with over 20 years experience as a teacher, coach, school administrator and district supervisor. He taught at Bell City and Iowa High schools and served as assistant principal at S.J. Welsh Middle School from 2004 until retiring in 2015. Leger is now owner of High Quality Program Improvement &amp; Evaluation.

“Defining Teaching Excellence: The Characteristics, Practices and Experiences of Highly Effective Teachers,” by Keith Leger, Ed.D., is a 183-page paperback released March 11. Cost is $19.99.

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