Jason Spencer remembers growing up surrounded by the petrochemical plants of Deer Park, Texas. The University of Houston graduate remembers walking with uncertainty down a trail of odd jobs and classes on the way to finding his passion for teaching. He is this year’s State and National Student Teacher of the Year. The honors come from the Texas Directors of Field Experiences, and the National Association of Teacher Educators and Kappa Delta Pi.
“I think what makes a good teacher, for the age group I teach, is the ability to remember what it was like to be a teenager,” Spencer said. “When they walk through the classroom door, things can’t slow down. They come from iPod, email, Google, TV, media, music and cell phones.”
Now a teacher at Lamar High School, Spencer remembers youth’s restlessness. He infuses his English and grammar lessons with youthful energy and enough dazzling technology to encourage even the most skeptical literature student make friends with Thoreau and Shakespeare. Spencer says the electronic age has surpassed the age of the lecture.
“These awards acknowledge that teachers are hungry for novelty just as much as students are,” he said.
Spencer is a product of the UH QUEST (Quality Urban Education for Students and Teachers) program which provides opportunities for teacher candidates to become critical thinkers and problem solvers by working with professionals and students in the classroom. To apply for the award consideration, he submitted lesson plans that included a Jeopardy-style game to teach about Romanticism in poetry.
“The QUEST program has the student teaching aspect which is a system that puts you in the classroom for three months straight and you’re in there on the frontlines, Monday through Friday, teacher hours, getting the full experience,” he said. “I just think that takes a passion for moving young people”
Both the state and national award recognize a student teacher who demonstrates an ability to plan and develop classroom management skills and instructional strategies that consider the needs of all students. Also acknowledged is a rapport with students, parents, faculty and staff that promotes an effective learning environment.
Jason Spencer is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez.
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