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There Is No Teaching Without Learning

Ben HernandezBen Hernandez is being honored as a Champion of Change for his service to education. 

Through 14 years of service in the Houston Independent School District (HISD) I have learned to maintain one doctrine. Simply stated it is that there is no teaching without learning.  I cannot say I am a teacher if students are not learning.  This credo drove me through my lessons in the classroom, kept me up late planning and preparing, pushed me to ensure my students met my high expectations.  My work was defined by learning.  And my students learned.  However, I soon realized that my students' learning was only part of the equation.  I realized I had to be a part of that learning as well. 

There is no teaching without learning and as a teacher I had to also be a student.  After teaching elementary PE for 4 years, I transitioned into teaching kindergarten.  As a kindergarten teacher I learned a tremendous amount.  For five years I was a student in that room learning about workstations, phonemic awareness, developing number concepts, one-to-one correspondence, and of course routines routines routines.  I often say that it was in the kindergarten classroom where I learned to teach.  After 5 years as a kinder teacher I became a 5th grade math teacher.  Though it was those 5-year-olds that taught me, it was with my 5th graders that I had the most success.  As a 5th grade teacher my students soared.  My instruction resulted in my students outperforming the 5th grade students of previous years and previous teachers on the state standardized assessment.  Fifth grade math passing percentage increased from 76% to 95% in my first year alone.  The following four years my students demonstrated similar achievement ranging from 95% to 100% passing.  This dramatic growth in math resulted in my school receiving a Blue Ribbon Award for significant gains in math achievement.  And yet, I attribute my success as a 5th grade teacher to my continued learning and constant development.  Again, without learning there could not have been any teaching.

Understanding that the key to effective teaching was learning I made the tremendously difficult decision last year to move out of the classroom and into professional development.  Because of my success as a teacher, I felt it incumbent upon me to teach other teachers.  In my working with HISD leadership to create a new appraisal and development system a new role in professional development was born.  This new role was given the name of Teacher Development Specialist (TDS).  The job of the TDS is to observe teachers and provide meaningful (non-evaluative) feedback for the purpose of improving instruction.  This was a major shift in the work of professional development in our district.  The TDS is to provide job embedded professional development targeted directly at instruction and tailored to fit individual teachers. 

My move into the TDS position has allowed me to impact many more students in HISD by working with teachers to improve their instruction.  There is no teaching without learning.  And now after 13 years of teaching elementary students, I have the charge of teaching teachers 

Ben Hernandez works in Professional Support and Development for teacher instruction