In the Classroom

How I Teach: From tragedy, a career in education

Welcome to the August edition of our “How I Teach” newsletter!

In keeping with back-to-school season, today’s issue features a Colorado English teacher who felt called back to the classroom at the age of 33.

Ted Halbert was dissatisfied with his marketing job at a Denver nonprofit. But what really pushed him to switch careers was a national tragedy: the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“That day I made a vow to myself to make the most of my life and not wait for change,” he said.

Enjoy our interview with Halbert, who talks about creating relationships with difficult parents, reaching students who prefer to stay in the shadows, and feeling frustrated with lagging public support for education.

As always, tell us what you think of this newsletter. Just reply to this email.

— Ann Schimke


In their own words.

GINNY TERRELL, third grade math, Memphis
Although Terrell struggled in school — and even was called “stupid” by her third-grade teacher — she aspired to be like the educators who helped her succeed. Here’s why she never “dumbs down” her lessons.

TED HALBERT, high school English, Brighton, Colorado
Faced with a mom others called “crazy,” Halbert broke through — by setting boundaries, like limiting email communication to messages crafted in 20 seconds or less. He explains how he reaches students — and parents — in his second career.

JESSICA FONG, preschool, Chicago
Fong realized her students fought less and used pretend play more when they visited a nature playground instead of a conventional playground. She decided to dig deeper with a research project.

KRISTIN GLADISH, music, Indianapolis
Music is the common language for the immigrant and refugee students Gladish teaches as part of the district’s Newcomer Program. Gladish explains why they love her “modern band” unit.


Other stories you might have missed.

SPRING BREAKTHROUGH New research suggests that intensive tutoring programs over spring break can boost students’ test scores and decrease the likelihood they’ll be suspended. More

BEYOND SLAVERY AND STEREOTYPES Starting this year, Indiana high schools must offer an ethnic studies class. Few students are signing up, but leaders of the initiative hope interest will grow. More

PRESSURE POINTS Does the kind of accountability championed by the 2002 No Child Left Behind law improve student achievement? A new study finds it had only modest effects. More


  • “Find Your Marigold: The One Essential Rule for New Teachers.” From Karen Riley, dean of the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver. “The intro aptly captures the feelings and insecurities of first year teachers, and provides a proactive approach to these challenges.”
  • “Lucky Broken Girl.” From Diana Bishop, an ESL instructional coach in Richmond, Texas. “I think the simple, yet beautiful writing that highlights what it’s like to be an immigrant is so powerful. Even for our reluctant [English learners] who do not like to read — when you read similar struggles you may have turned a non-reader into a reader.”
  • “Crossing the Hall: Exposing an American Divide.” From Sarah Andrew-Vaughan, a teacher in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “It’s an honest, brave investigation of race and racism” and “a wise analysis of Plato and Malcolm X.”
  • “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.” From Dani Johnson, principal from Aloha, Oregon. “I couldn’t put it down. It provides the “why” behind a lot of the issues we are seeing with kids. It sheds light on changes we need to make as educators to support our kids!”

Are you a teacher with a reading recommendation for other educators? Let me know what it is and why you liked it, and I may feature your suggestion in a future newsletter. Just send me an email at [email protected].