Teacher of year gives pointers to Niles teachers

Published 7:11 pm Tuesday, October 21, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Bill Cecil, Michigan Department of Education's Teacher of The Year, had a simple message when he spoke to Howard School teachers on Monday during a day of in-service.
Currently on a sabbatical from teaching because of his award, Cecil, who recently turned 40, is using this year to travel the state sharing his own experiences as a teacher with other teachers and administrators.
On Monday, he arrived in Niles after having talked to 600 students at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids earlier in the morning.
During his two-hour presentation, Cecil, using material from his self-published book, "Best Year Ever," presented ways teachers can create enthusiasm and maintain a good line of communication with their students.
And, he encouraged the teachers to play with their students, especially at the beginning of the school year.
Cecil said playing is important because it, among other things, works as an ice breaker between students and teachers.
He seemed to prove his point when he took the teachers outside for half an hour of games, that brought about a laugh or two.
Cecil also said it's important that teachers share their vision of what they would like to achieve during the school year, so that students and teachers can agree on the goals they are working toward.
Cecil, however, isn't travelling the state just to hold talks.
He is also gathering information about education in Michigan for the state's Department of Education, to which he reports.
With recent negativity about education, much of it due to problems attributed to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), Cecil said there are a lot of positive things going on in education in Michigan compared to what people are led to belive.
However, he thinks there are still obstacles to climb.
Neither an advocate nor an opponent of the NCLB, Cecil said it's important for teachers to do their best with the resources available, despite many educators thinking the policy is designed to fail.
Since his sabbatical started, Cecil has talked to administrators and teachers roughly 20 times.
Although assignments were few and far between in the beginning, Cecil said he is beginning to get more requests from schools who want to listen to what he has to say.
But he can't wait to get back to his own 5-grade classroom.