To the Editor:
West Tisbury School’s eighth grade students scored number one in the state in science, for the second year in a row. Congratulations to teacher Karl Nelson and the former eighth grade students at the West Tisbury School.
This is a remarkable achievement, one of which any school could feel proud. What these impressive results show is a real relationship between a teacher and his students. They make it very evident that Karl Nelson has mastered the art of teaching science and understands, and can interpret, the Massachusetts State Science Curriculum Frameworks . The concepts contained in the framework are accepted worldwide as the basis for scientific literacy, and the West Tisbury School community can take pride in this data driven evidence of their students’ achievement.
In most communities this achievement and honor would be celebrated by the school system as a front page headline in a local paper. Student success and their enlightenment is the whole basis of why we have a school system and why we work hard to offer opportunities to our children. As President Barack Obama has stated, “If you excel at helping your students achieve success, your success will be valued and rewarded as well.”
Strangely, Mr. Nelson’s success and commitment to excellence is greeted with silence. Neither he nor his students receive any praise or commendation. Their hard work and the impressive outcome resulting from it goes without comment.
Acknowledgment, praise, and professional support and encouragement should be the cornerstone of any educational system. The large non-teaching staff should be focusing their efforts on examining data, supporting strategies that work for our students, and applauding the success of teachers and their students. Surely that is their role? Grudging acknowledgement, or no acknowledgment, is not a appropriate professional reaction to demonstrated success.
Teachers such as Mr. Nelson who have mastered what is necessary to make our children competitive in the world should not be ignored, and our students’ success should not be ignored. This year’s MCAS results show impressive results in certain subject areas for every school on the Island. How about looking at what works and using it as a models or success?
The eighth grade students from West Tisbury School have competed and excelled for the second year running, in placing number one in the state, and their teacher has led them to this success. The school system should be their cheerleaders, proud of the credit they have brought to the Island but there is no evidence of that.
The real business of teaching and learning goes on in the classroom, and when dedicated teachers excite and interest their students, then that is the recipe for success. As classes get larger and budgets get smaller, let’s remember that and give a public acknowledgement to those teachers and students who have contributed so vitally to our system.
Karl Nelson and his last two eighth grade classes, take a bow. You have brought credit to your school, to your community, and to the Island and deserve the grateful recognition of the school leadership.
Joel Weintraub has taught science in West Tisbury School, Carnarsie High School in New York, Greenhill School in Rochdale, England and is currently teaching in Providence R.I.