2018-06-01 / Shorts

Exploring Education

Delta Middle teacher (and SCM columnist) David Rockower receives prestigious research fellowship
Chris Rosenblum | Photos by Nabil K. Mark

English teacher David Rockower believes in encouraging student voices, but one recent afternoon while on bus duty, he wouldn’t have minded muffling a few.

Delta Middle School was dismissing for the weekend, and the volume was at eardrum-piercing levels. In the midst of the bedlam, Rockower received a call from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Telemarketer? No. He had been waiting for news from New England, but the caller was hard to understand over the din.

Rockower told her to hang on and walked to a quieter spot. What he finally heard stunned him.
He had been chosen for the 2018-2020 cohort of Heinemann Fellows, along with 10 other educators selected from more than 400 applicants nationally.

Over the two years, the Fellows will pursue research projects while gathering regularly to share their findings and present together at conferences. Mentored by noted education author Ellin Oliver Keene, they’ll also post blogs for Heinemann, which provides educational resources for teachers, and eventually publish their research via the company’s media channels or in books.

“The 2018 Heinemann Fellows are a diverse group of teachers, coaches and administrators who exemplify the highest professional standards and a passionate commitment to students,” the company says. “They represent a range of grade levels, content areas, and backgrounds and share a collective interest to learn from each other, a desire to share what they know, and the potential to impact the teaching profession.”

In June, the Fellows will meet in Portsmouth to get started and discuss research ideas.

“Each teacher will decide on a problem of practice, something near and dear to their heart that they want to examine at a deeper level,” Rockower says. “We will support each other, push each other, develop some action research plans and questions. We take that back to our classrooms, implement the plans, experiment and gather data.”

Although Rockower hasn’t settled on a specific project, his choice likely will explore certain topics.

Building student voice and school community interest him, he says, as does the power of writing not only to build confidence but also to find “joy in life through expression.”

He’s also intrigued by the “idea of letting go as a teacher.”

“We come from this background of teaching where the teacher is in control and sets the requirements every marking period,” he says. “Sure, we have breakout projects where kids are independent, but what would a classroom look like if we relinquished even more control and from day one were project-based, where students are setting their own goals and timelines and we are a true facilitator in the classroom?”

Last July, the National Council of Teachers named Rockower its top middle level English language arts teacher. But the fellowship promises something more than a national award: the chance to learn and teach simultaneously, exchanging perspectives with colleagues hailing from diverse worlds.

“The biggest leaps in my teaching have occurred when I’ve sustained collaborative experiences with like-minded teachers and we really can develop cool opportunities for students,” he says. “So this is just taking that to another level.” •SCM

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