Teacher Spotlight: A Talk with Jay Maebori

The 2011 Washington State Teacher of the Year, Maebori gave up his dream of being a sports journalist to be a teacher, and hasn’t looked back.

This post is in partnership with University of Phoenix

Jay Maebori gave up his dream career of being a sports journalist to be a teacher more than a decade ago and hasn’t looked back. He is the 2011 Washington State Teacher of the Year and teaches high school English just outside of Seattle. Maebori teaches “blended” classes, leading honors, English Language Learners, and intervention students through a rigorous Language Arts curriculum.

GOOD: How long have you been teaching and what type of students do you serve?

Jay Maebori: I am starting my eleventh year and I teach at Kentwood High School, a suburban Seattle High School. It’s not the most diverse school in the world, but we’re moving more and more towards that.

I teach blended classes, which is a mix of honors kids and core kids all in the same classroom. So if you do it right you differentiate for every learner in the classroom, which can be really difficult, especially with big class sizes.

GOOD: How do you motivate students who haven’t been successful in the past?

Maebori: Motivation has always been something that I thought about a lot. If a student is motivated, they’ll do almost anything. And if they’re not, it really doesn’t matter if they can or can’t do it—they need to try. Building a class culture where effort is valued, where we’re building character all the time, and where we’re trying to get stronger and better is important. Having them see the bigger picture of why school is important and how they can apply it elsewhere is key.

GOOD: As your school becomes more diverse, how do you make your content culturally relevant?

Maebori: When I first started to get my credential, we read an article about a “Colorblind Curriculum” and we had this long discussion about whether we should try to treat all kids the same, or really try to play up the fact that people come from so many different cultures. We went back and forth about it, but I felt like if we celebrated the differences, then [the students] could bring something different to the table. That’s what I try to do from day one: allow every kid to feel like where they come from culturally is going to enhance what we do in a daily basis.

GOOD: How do you balance making sure your students are prepared for standardized tests with still being creative?

Maebori: That’s tough because I do feel I want the scores to reflect that I was effective with them, and that’s a good measurement. But it’s a little disconcerting that it becomes the only measurement. Kids could have made personal growth and could have done a lot of things that are non-measurable, and yet teachers don’t really get credit or recognition for having done that with certain kids.

You have to just focus on the skills that will get them ready for the test, but trying to find ways to demonstrate those skills within the context of other things is really helpful.

GOOD: How do you incorporate technology into your class?

Maebori: As often as possible. The kids know more about technology than I do in some cases, so I try to let them teach me. I try to give them options in how they can demonstrate their learning. If I tell them they have to make a PowerPoint, it’s very limiting. Letting go and allowing kids to explore technology makes them feel really empowered.

GOOD: In your opinion, what’s the biggest misconception about teachers?

Maebori: That test scores are the end all, be all measure of what a teacher can do. There are so many ways that a teacher can be effective. The public looks at scores and hears things in Newsweek like, 'United States Performing Behind Foreign Counterparts,' and they get worried. They think it’s because of lack of teacher effort. And there are some teachers in every building who do not belong in the classroom anymore, but I don’t think the general public sees the effort that most teachers put in. They just see the scores. There are so many other factors, but so much of it rests on the shoulders of the teacher.

GOOD: What advice would you give to new teachers?

Maebori: Being patient with yourself early on is really important. I was impatient with myself; I wanted to be great right away. I found myself disappointed a lot because I was struggling. But I think struggling is a part of the process. If you don’t struggle, you don’t get better. New teachers shouldn’t be afraid of struggle, they should actually embrace it because through struggle comes improvement.


Read more from the GOOD Guide to Great Teaching here.

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Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

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In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

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and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

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The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

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The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

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But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

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via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


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