From Us Who’ve Walked in Your Shoes, “Thank You” – #ThankATeacher

“You’ve gone to the dark side!” Rita Lopez sometimes hears from teacher friends she worked alongside of in Boston and Westchester County, N.Y. high schools.

Lopez, a former high school math teacher and, now, an assessment director at Educational Testing Service (ETS), knows that it’s only friendly teasing, but understands where her former colleagues are coming from.

“I’ll just ask them, ‘Well, who would you rather have working on these instruments and tools?’” Lopez said.

As part of National Teacher Appreciation Week, ETS brought together some of our colleagues to talk about their experiences teaching elementary, middle and high school students and their continued focus on education improvement working at ETS.

Much of the work behind how we create an assessment, especially K—12 and teacher licensure assessments, is researched and conducted by ETS employees who spent years in the classroom teaching and mentoring students.

And it’s not only ETS employees who were teachers working on these efforts, but current teachers play a pivotal role in terms of an ongoing dialogue with assessment developers.

The way students learn has changed…the way teachers teach has changed…we have to be tuned in to all of that.

~ Liz Marquez

“They [teachers in the field] know what is relevant now and how today’s students learn,” said ETS researcher Liz Marquez. “The way students learn has changed and continues to change, the way teachers teach has changed and continues to change, and we have to be tuned in to all of that.”

Marquez spent over 30 years teaching high school math before embarking on her second career at ETS. She views her work here as a continuation of her passion to help reveal the “beauty of mathematics” to learners. Today, her research focuses on addressing misconceptions about math and science learning that often hinder underserved populations from being successful in these subjects.

There’s a difference between knowing a particular subject, like algebra, and knowing how to teach algebra to students.

~ Heather Howell

ETS researcher Heather Howell’s parents were both teachers and she loved solving math problems growing up. When deciding a career path in college, Howell liked the idea of challenging herself to learn how to best teach others to solve math problems.

“There’s a difference between knowing a particular subject, like algebra, and knowing how to teach algebra to students,” Howell said.

After teaching high school math for a number of years, Howell’s curiosity in the science of teaching led to her earning her doctorate in math education and working at ETS. Her research is driven by a passion to create professional development tools to help prepare pre-service teachers for the classroom.

What struck us the most when talking to our ETS teacher colleagues was that their answers to questions always emphasized their students’ experiences, not their own. Everyone spoke of the “aha” moments. Times when students would finally grasp a particular subject or topic.

Having the lights go on within the learner, yeah, I can see why many teachers say this profession is a calling.

~ Troy Hutchings

“There’s a visceral, emotional response that comes with this illumination of learning,” said ETS strategic advisor Troy Hutchings, who taught high school literature for 16 years. “Having the lights go on within the learner, yeah, I can see why many teachers say this profession is a calling.”

This week especially, we want to thank teachers across the country and our teacher employees for all the “aha” moments each of you gave us at ETS in our own lives. We want to thank you for being student advocates, for going above and beyond in pursuit of others’ learning, and for helping young minds realize that it is a lifelong endeavor beyond the classroom.