I receive emails from the local newspaper on a daily basic. So, when I’d gotten one in regards to nominating my favorite teacher, than I got to thinking. And my thoughts were on my buddy and talented musician Jeffrey Dean, a young man who’d won Song of the Year, at my semi-annual awards show in 2018.
Just recently, I was informed that he had won after my nomination, and I was so proud of him. As a result, I decided to share the story here on The Argus. Take a look.
Every month, the community nominates their favorite teachers and educators from the St. Louis region to be the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Teacher of the Month. March’s winner is Jeffrey Dean, a ninth and 10th grade English II teacher at Hazelwood East High School in the Hazelwood School District (HSD). Mr. Dean received a $250 gift card courtesy of Elco-Chevrolet Cadillac.
Describe your teaching experience over the years.
I have had a great overall teaching experience. I learn just as much from the students as they learn from me. Being a teacher is something that you really have to be passionate about in order to enjoy your job and remain in this profession for a long time.
How long have you been teaching and where did you get your start?
I have been teaching for almost 10 years. I got my start at Carnahan High School as a student teacher, and the rest was history.
What is your favorite part of your classes?
My favorite part of my classes are my students. I’m fortunate to get to experience so many different personalities and viewpoints daily. It is such a rewarding experience molding the minds of the future. I truly enjoy helping students find their passions and watching them grow, and they always keep me laughing.
Describe your teaching style.
I try to keep it student-centered. I like to hear the students use their voices in the classroom. There are a lot of discussions, group activities and inference-based questions that require students to give their personal opinions and use evidence from the text to support their answers. I love to hear the different perspectives given during discussions. It helps me look at certain topics and characters that we are reading about from a different viewpoint, and sometimes that leads to a better analysis than my original idea.
What do you hope your students take away from your class?
As an employee at Hazelwood East, I want the students to take pride in their school and understand how great of a place East High is. There are some great people who came from this school, and I want them all to strive to be as great. As an English teacher, my goal is to enhance their reading and writing skills. I strive to help them become better critical thinkers and build on their reading stamina. My personal goal is to help them become better individuals overall. HSD emphasizes educating the whole child. When their time with me is done, I want them to know that I really care about them and want the best for them at the end of the day.
How do you connect and relate to your students?
Being a young, black male teacher helps me connect with a lot of my students, especially the young boys at my school. I can relate to what it is like being a young, black man in America, so giving my experiences and insights on certain situations are helpful in most instances. I also support students at their sporting events or other events when I can. Seeing me in the crowd, or asking about their previous games, lets them know that I am not just invested in their academics, but also in what they have going on outside of the classroom. I am also in tune with pop culture, fashion and other things the kids like, so that helps with building connections. I need to learn the new lingo a little better, though. That is where my age starts to show.
How do you feel about being honored as Teacher of the Month?
There are so many great teachers in the St. Louis area, so it is a very humbling experience. It is always good to be recognized for your work. I would like to give a big shout out to my English team at Hazelwood East because they help me become better every day. Thank you to Assistant Principal Elizabeth Havey, Instructional Coach Lisa Hollins, Alicia Mata, Jason Dinwiddie, Dr. Theresa Arnold, Haleigh Goff and Scott Batchelor. Most importantly, thank you to Dr. Granger, our principal, for bringing me on board and trusting me to teach.
Describe a success story that sticks with you.
One of my best success stories that I can recall is getting a Facetime from a former student showing me his diploma. He said, ‘It is because of you that I stuck with it. Thank you.’ It was looking a little rocky for him prior, so to see that he stayed motivated and got his diploma was a rewarding experience for me. It lets me know that the students do listen. Seeing kids do great things makes the job all worth it. Those are the best parts of my job.