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Teacher Spotlight: Jane Franko-York

The GOOD Guide to Finding the Teachers of Tomorrow: Jane Franko-York, a fifth grade teacher from Illinois, talks about the future of education.

This post is in partnership with University of Phoenix

Jane Franko-York hails from Granite City, Illinois where she has been teaching for 29 years. She’s taught everything from HeadStart programs to the fifth grade, which she is currently teaching at Wilson Elementary School.

GOOD: How do you see the classroom atmosphere changing in the next five to ten years? How can teachers adapt to these changes?

JANE FRANKO-YORK: In the next five to ten years, I see the classroom atmosphere changing both economically and technologically. Technologically, the teachers will have to make the best use of the technological tools that they do have. I think that class sizes ride the economic roller coaster. When school districts are suffering money crunches, the class sizes enlarge. As class sizes enlarge, I anticipate the computer’s use as a teaching assistant will be inevitable in most districts.

GOOD: What's the best advice you can give to first year teachers who are planning to stay in education for the long term?

FRANKO-YORK: The best advice that I can give teachers just starting out and planning to stay in education for a long time would be to keep journals of funny things that kids do and say, stories that warm the heart that the students share, and labeled pictures of the students that they teach. It is so wonderful to see these students after many years and to be able to recall with great detail about the time spent with them. Students come back to visit frequently. I always love “catching up” with them. I’m so proud of their accomplishments! I’m glad to share their happy moments such as academic achievements, band awards, and athletic stories. I’m concerned when sharing challenging moments such as financial need, family death, and unwed pregnancy. I’ve always told my students that I’m available for them unconditionally.

GOOD: With technology changing so quickly, what are the ways teachers can stay innovative in the classroom?

FRANKO-YORK: Teachers can stay innovative in the classroom by giving autonomy to the students where technology is concerned. In years past, seasoned teachers mentored younger teachers but as technology comes to the forefront, the seasoned teachers need to allow themselves to be mentored by the younger teachers.

My students help me often with the computer. I am an old dog learning new tricks. Sometimes, the easiest task is something I need help with and the kids are happy to help me.

GOOD: Where should schools be looking to find teachers of tomorrow?

FRANKO-YORK: Teachers of tomorrow can be found anywhere. The desire to love, educate, and help children are not limited to any one area or college.

GOOD: How can your peers or your school help support innovation in the classroom?

FRANKO-YORK: Team teaching with teachers sharing their expertise is a great way for peers to help one another stay innovative in the classroom. Teachers sharing ideas is always a preferred mode for me. Currently, I’m blessed with a wonderful, young student teacher, Ms. Emilee Diak, and she and I are sharing ideas constantly.

GOOD: What do you think is an essential quality to a successful teacher and how can we help nurture this quality?

FRANKO-YORK: Essential qualities for a successful teacher would be a sense of humor and flexibility. While a plan book is a necessity, so is the ability to go with the flow and to be able to change plans at a moment's notice. Maybe a college class called Laughter 101A or Flexibility 101A would help nurture these qualities.

GOOD: We've focused on technological or pedagogical ways that teachers innovate, but what is it about teacher-child relationships that'll endure well into the 21st century?

FRANKO-YORK: An enduring quality is loving patience...time will never change the need for this in the classroom.

To read more thoughts from classroom teachers about the future of education, read the GOOD Guide to Finding the Teachers of Tomorrow.

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