Students, What’s Great Teaching?


This post, authored by Kelly Zunkiewicz, first appeared on the TNTP blog.

Kelly Zunkiewicz is a 2014 Fishman Prize winner and Pre-Calculus and AP Calculus teacher in Hillsborough County, Florida. Applications for this year’s Fishman Prize are due December 16.Nominate an outstanding teacher or apply online yourself.

I’ll never forget the conversation I had with my students before leaving for the Fishman Prize final interview weekend in Brooklyn, NY last spring. I was sitting with my AP Calculus class when one of my students blurted out, “You know Ms. Zunkiewicz, we got you this far. Now it is all up to you.”

She was right. Every one of my students over the last seven years has been a part of the process of developing my teaching practice. Through their commitment to struggling through difficult material, all while trusting me to guide them, they’ve taught me how to teach.

My students were surprised to learn that I felt that way, and the comment sparked a broader discussion about their opinions on the teaching profession and the importance of education. Was teaching a true profession? What kind of commitment did they see every day from their teachers? What was it like to have some teachers who express a real love for teaching, compared to those who treat it like just a job? I was astounded by the strong opinions my students had on education, teachers, and their personal responsibility in it all.

Students everywhere have important perspectives on what they expect from their teachers and what they want their teachers to expect from them. They know great teaching when they experience it, and they understand the power it holds. But too often, we don’t ask them what they think—or listen to them when they speak up. Just as often, they don’t know who to share their thoughts with, or howto share them.

So with four video cameras, a small group of determined students at Lennard High School set out to film their peers and capture their voices. Their goal was to share students’ perspectives on the kind of teachers they want and deserve. Here’s what they came up with: