ExtraCredit, the official blog of the Ohio Department of Education, offers commentary and insight on a wide range of education issues from department experts and guest bloggers from throughout Ohio’s schools and support organizations. We encourage your ideas, feedback and comments to promote a two-way dialogue. See our Comment Policy for more information.

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State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria Announces Ohio’s 2020 Teacher of the Year

By: Staff Blogger

Celebrating teachers’ roles in student success is one of the great privileges of working for the Ohio Department of Education. One of the most exciting events honoring the teaching profession is the announcement of Ohio’s Teacher of the Year. Today, State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria went to Norwood Middle School to surprise students and staff with the news that their Spanish and English as a second language teacher, Leila Kubesch, is Ohio’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.

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GUEST BLOG: Staying Out of No Man's Land — Dr. Neil Gupta, Worthington City Schools

By: Guest Blogger

Tennis-Court-boundries-3.pngA definite highlight of my teaching career also was spent on tennis courts coaching our student athletes and making positive connections with students. A fundamental rule for any tennis player is to stay out of “no man’s land”; the area between the baseline and the service line of a tennis court.

So, the goal is to either stay back at the baseline or play near the net. Getting caught in the middle makes for hard shots and being less able to get to the ball. As a coach, I saw players hesitate when making their move from the baseline to the net. They stop in the middle convincing themselves it is safe, while they wait for another opportunity to advance. Instead, great tennis players realize that when you want to move forward, you have to commit and move with intentionality, or you’ll get stuck in no man’s land. 

The same goes in leadership: when you commit, make your move forward and don’t get caught in no man’s land. To help you stay out of the middle, consider these four But Nots to staying out of no man’s land:

But Not #1: Being in a meeting but not speaking up.
Meetings are a chance to learn, clarify, communicate, dialogue and discuss. For whatever reason, it’s natural to make excuses not to speak up and share your opinion, point of view or question. By being in the meeting, make it your mission to be an active contributor. Avoid the parking lot conversations or meetings after the meeting. Commit to using your voice to share your experience, insights and point of view to help the team make the best decision for students.

But Not #2: Taking a leadership position but not taking ownership.
Regardless of whether you have a formal title or not, we are all leaders in our areas. At some point, we have to own our responsibility in the decision, the action or helping to solve a problem or need. There’s also a tendency to delegate things that might be out of our comfort zone. While we can’t be the expert at all things, it should still be our goal to learn and grow. Commit to take ownership of decisions and areas in which you work to make it better for students.

But Not #3: Managing issues but not leading others.
It’s easy to quickly get caught in the role of putting out the fires that seem to come up constantly. The same can be said about filling time just responding to emails that come at all hours of the day and night. While emails and responding to issues will never go away, the real work is in moving forward to proactive action. Commit to being proactive in developing and leading your team by addressing areas that support and grow all students.

But Not #4: Talking about changes but not executing them.
There’s a doom-loop mentality when we create meetings to plan for the meeting to plan for the meeting. T-shirts and posters fill our schools with positive affirmations and slogans that bring power and energy for change to take place. Yet, when action is necessary, there seems to be a void or disconnect between the conversations and the action. While gathering input and ensuring clarity is crucial before you can make decisions, it’s easy to get caught on the baseline, unable to move forward. Commit to making plans in how decisions will be made and communicated.

Tennis players playing out a point at the net is the most exciting. The game is fast-paced, and the reaction time to respond is even quicker. To get to the net, the player had to have made the commitment to run through no man’s land. Once the decision was made to leave the baseline, doubt and uncertainty had to be extinguished. Leaders making decisions to move forward have to possess that same unwavering commitment. The next time you decide to make your move, watch out for the “but not” trap in no man’s land.

Neil Gupta, Ed. D. is the director of Secondary Education for Worthington City Schools. He oversees middle school and high school programs and leads the academic and safety work with the building principals. You can read Dr. Gupta's full bio and his blog here

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State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria Attends the Ohio Federation of Teachers Local Leaders Conference

By: Staff Blogger

State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria spoke to members of the Ohio Federation of Teachers at its annual Local Leaders Conference. During his remarks, Superintendent DeMaria talked about Each Child, Our Future and what a teacher-led continuous improvement culture looks like.

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State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria Attends the Building Resiliency: A Pediatric Mental Health Summit

By: Staff Blogger

Supporting the whole child is at the center of Each Child, Our Future. For this reason, State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria was pleased to attend and facilitate a panel discussion at Governor Mike DeWine’s Building Resiliency: A Pediatric Mental Health Summit. The summit was an opportunity to learn more on topics like trauma-informed care and resiliency. Having knowledge about these topics helps everyone better meet the needs of the whole child.

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We Are Teachers… The Profession That Matters Most — Mona Al-Hayani, 2020 Ohio Teacher Fellow

By: Staff Blogger

GettyImages-862689894.jpgViewing back-to-school commercials certainly conjures up a lot of emotions in teachers. We always feel like summer slipped through our fingers so quickly. If we worked or attended professional development in the summer, we wonder if we should have rested more. Summer certainly should be a time for teachers to regroup, reevaluate, pursue hobbies and rejuvenate for another year in the classroom. After all, our journeys as teachers can be emotional, frustrating, bumpy and difficult, but we persevere because we are TEACHERS.

Whether you have just begun your first year or your 31st year in the classroom, I hope you always remember how important a teacher’s role is in our society. Being a teacher requires stamina, intelligence, collaboration, creativity, patience, hope and a proclivity to nurture the intellectual and social-emotional growth of our students. Teachers know and understand that there is great power when our students find and express their identities and use their collective voices to create change.

For many of our students, we are called to be more than just teachers. We must be advocates, superheroes, champions or beacons of light filtering through the storm on a rainy day. As the years pass, you may not remember every student’s name, but they will always remember you. Your words and actions do matter to your students. You matter. We could never fathom how far our influence on a student may reach. We could never fathom how one statement, one compliment or one word of advice could ultimately alter the course of their lives.

For the first time in my 24-year career as a history teacher in Toledo Public Schools, I am not with my beloved students in my classroom nor am I with my close colleagues and friends on a daily basis. I already miss them. This school year, I am embarking on a journey as the first teacher fellow at the Ohio Department of Education. I am excited and extremely thankful for this opportunity, but my students will always be first in my heart and mind. I will set forth on this teacher fellow journey determined to be an advocate for teachers and students — not just in my classroom and district but throughout the state.

I truly believe teachers are one of the greatest assets and gifts in American society today. We have the passion and ability to shape the hearts and minds of our students. This responsibility is unique to teaching and is unmatched in any other profession on earth. I hope you were able reflect on this fact over the summer and keep it at the front of your mind this school year — even during challenging days. I wish you all a peaceful and fruitful beginning to your school year.

Mona Al-Hayani was named the 2019 Ohio Teacher of the Year and is taking a year sabbatical from teaching history at Toledo Early College High School to work with the Department as the first OhioTeacher Fellow. You can contact Mona at Mona.Al-Hayani@education.ohio.gov.

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