Longtime educator shares wisdom with alumni educators

Release Date: Sept. 26, 2008

PLAINVIEW – Aside from the books, the notes and the lectures, the most important thing a teacher brings to the classroom is a model for good manners, respect and character for his or her students. So believes Dr. Hal Urban, noted speaker and author of Lessons from the Classroom: 20 Things Good Teachers Do.

Hal Urban

              Urban shared his heart for character education and some advice gleaned from a 36-year teaching career with local education professionals at the Alumni Educators Banquet held Thursday at Wayland Baptist University inconjunction with the school’s Centennial Celebration.

              Designed to honor those “in the trenches” with Wayland degrees, the banquet featured a dinner and a keynote by Urban, who opened his presentation with a comparison of how the five social influencers on children differ now from the 1950s when he was in elementary school. Media and peers top the list now, where they brought up the rear five decades ago.

              “We did have TV, though it was black and white and there were only a few channels,” Urban said. “But the messages coming out were very different. The media reinforced the values being taught in the home, in the school and through faith.”

              Because of that, Urban emphasized that the values once held dear are quite different and the role of teachers has shifted from just imparters of knowledge to shapers of society. Incorporating character education into the classroom is imperative, Urban said, if students are to be truly impacted during their school years.

              Moving quickly through his list of 20 things good teachers do – which included such gems as “creating a caring community,” “have a mission” and “laugh with their students” – Urban parked briefly at a few points to emphasize them and share anecdotes from his teaching career in California.

              “Good teachers share one special quality – they’re all a little crazy… about their jobs,” he laughed. “We call that enthusiasm, one of my favorite words. Anything you do, if you do it with enthusiasm, you’ll do a better job.”

              Urban also emphasized the importance of avoiding “words that poison the atmosphere” and teaching students to avoid them as well. He explained an exercise with his high school history students that resulted in several simple signs posted in the room as guidelines and reminders, using the simple circle and slash symbol. No complaining, no whining, no moaning and groaning and no swearing were the big no-nos in Urban’s classroom, and he noted that he used humor to teach the students to replace those phrases with words that nourish the atmosphere.

Hal Urban at book signing

              “ ‘Do we haaaaaaave to?’ can be made better by changing just one word, but ‘do we get to?’ doesn’t work unless you change your tone of voice and body language,” Urban said, noting as he demonstrated the whiny tone most students take with the common phrase.

              Urban had the audience laughing as he demonstrated the proper response to his abundant handouts, changed from the common “Ohhhhhhh, nooooooo” to a more excited “Oh, boy!” with wide grins.

              Other “things good teachers do” also included helping students to own and honor the rules, which he said worked best when the class created a set of rules together; catching students doing things right; starting class with something positive, using the “celebrate today” philosophy; and his final one, getting better every year, by working to improve oneself and not burning out.

              Attendees got to take home a copy of Urban’s book thanks to a donation by former Plainviewan Gary Ott, editor of the Midland Reporter-Telegram, who purchased the books in honor of his mother, Vera Ott, a retired teacher who returned to Wayland at age 35 to earn her teaching degree and spent 18 years at Thunderbird Elementary.

              “There was never any doubt in my mind that I’d be a teacher,” shared Hope English, Vera’s daughter and the Director of Development at Wayland who also helped organize the banquet event. “But I didn’t know that my mother had a dream of being a teacher too. My entire family was impacted by her degree at Wayland.”


Alumni Educators Honored

              The banquet also included the presentation of the Centennial Education Awards by the School of Education, honoring area educators for excellence. Maegan Conner, a 2004 graduate and a teacher in the Birdville ISD in the metroplex, was honored as Elementary Teacher of the Year.

              Middle School Teacher of the year honors went to Darla Newland, reading teacher at Estacado Junior High in Plainview and a 2003 graduate of WBU. Tate Criswell, world geography teacher and coach at Tulia High School and a 2006 WBU graduate, was honored as Secondary Teacher of the Year.

              A 1990 WBU graduate, Dana Ketchersid was honored as Assistant Principal of the Year for her work at Frenship Middle School in Wolfforth. Principal of the Year honors went to Jimye Sadler, a master’s degree graduate of 1995 who serves at Thunderbird Elementary in Plainview.

              Senior Ashlee Juarez, an elementary education and special education major, was honored with the EDICUT Service Award, awarded by Education of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas to a student demonstrating excellence in education and service to students and community. She is a teacher’s aide at Thunderbird.

              Jimmy Marez, a first-grade teacher in Clovis, N.M., was honored as New Mexico Clinician of the Year after being honored in the spring as the state’s Outstanding Student Teacher of the Year before he earned his degree at Wayland’s Clovis campus. The School of Education also honored Don Williams, a Plainview CPA and trustee of the Joachim Foundation, as Supporter of Excellence in Education for his contributions to the school and Wayland in general.

              Provost Dr. Bobby Hall tied the centennial theme to the banquet by thanking educators for their powerful role.

              “For those of us in education, perhaps the most important dream is that of changing lives through the extraordinarily powerful combination of a genuine concern for students and a demanding academic program, all encapsulated within an unashamedly Christian environment,” Hall said. “For generations, this combination at Wayland has changed lives, including my own and many of yours. And you, in turn, have enriched the lives of those you teach and touch with your wisdom, care and understanding.

              “Dreams to reality… as educators, that’s the business we’re in.”