Responses to questions everyone wants to ask a renewed National Board Certified Teacher with 21 years of experience in the classroom. Greg Stafford is a physics teacher at Desert Ridge High School of Gilbert Public Schools. Recently, the Arizona Education Association member and father of two achiev

Dec 15, 2015

Responses to questions everyone wants to ask a renewed National Board Certified Teacher with 21 years of experience in the classroom.

Greg Stafford is a physics teacher at Desert Ridge High School of Gilbert Public Schools. Recently, the Arizona Education Association member and father of two achieved Board certification for the second time.

What is your go-to idea for engaging reluctant learners?

GS: With reluctant learners, I use an old coaching technique where I kneel down where they are at and quietly let them know that I believe in their abilities. I know that physics is challenging and my goal is to make the topics connect to the students, their lives, and the world around them.

What is something parents should do to support their child’s learning?

GS: Challenge them to fail. We live in a ‘participation is passing’ society. Push your student to struggle. If they do not struggle in elementary, middle, or high school, then college may certainly come as a huge ‘kick in the teeth’ if they do not know how or have not found the necessity to get back up and try, try again.

Who is the teacher that inspired you?

GS: My cooperating teacher, Linda Wojeckowski. She lets me try, succeed, try and fall down, and then coaches me back up for the next day.

Don Hornbeck, who was a veteran professional by the time I met him in 1996. He took time to teach not only his students and his football players, but also a young teacher, new to Arizona as well. I assisted him with the freshmen football team at Highland High School. I learned more about teaching and students on our walks from the practice field to the parking lot than I ever did in college.

Last, but not least of all, Debbie Boniface who was an engaging and innovative special education teacher. She modeled that everyone can achieve success with the right goals and scaffolding to get them there. She was also instrumental in getting me interested in teaching. I can truly say that I would not be an educator without Debbie.

Why do you teach?

GS: It is because every year, every day and every hour it is different. If you are bored with teaching you are doing it wrong. The challenge that each student provides and the excitement that there is the process of figuring out a problem or a situation—this is why I am excited for 99 percent of my school days. Overall it comes back to what I think all career professionals know—it is the rush a student has with the ‘light bulb’ or an ‘aha’ moment.

What should students get their teacher during the holiday season?

GS: I am passionate, excitable and enthusiastic about what I do. I do not always connect on a personal level with all my students, but I try to learn something about each of them. Years ago, I had a hard time connecting with one particular student. The individual was certainly an introvert and I think my gregarious personality scared them. I thought the gift was a subtle ‘thank you’ and a small smile from behind the long hair covering their eyes, as the student walked out from taking the second semester final.

A year after this student graduated I received a note from that student which expressed how much they enjoyed my class, explaining they make an effort to ‘see’ physics everyday. With the note was a tie from their college, Notre Dame, which is also my favorite college football team. You never know how you might connect with a student, even when it’s just a ‘whiff,’ it might be just enough for someone else to steal a base where new opportunities arise.

Gift cards are nice to Starbucks, Paradise Bakery, or a restaurant, but a gift card to Total Wine and More would be the best!

What is your favorite educational movie?

GS: Remember the Titans

What is your favorite lesson to teach and why?

GS: There are many lessons that I like to teach, so I do not have a favorite. Every year I make adjustments, modifications, and so nothing is truly the same. The great part about teaching high school are the questions that students ask, which is another reason a lesson could be so awesome in one class and just good in another.

What is your funniest moment in the classroom?

GS: If not once a day, then every other day there is laughter and giggles in most classes. I do not mind being a goofball, throwing out puny phrases, or connecting song lyrics to our topic of study, and telling stories that connect physics to the lives of students. I have fun everyday and I invite my students to work hard and play hard.

What is one thing you would change to improve teaching and learning in AZ schools?

GS: We need to change the pathway to becoming a teacher. Instead of students paying to become teachers, they should be paid as part of an apprenticeship program. Exemplary teachers would be the only ones to train our future teachers. You would have to apply, become certified as a master of your craft, and through a process of apprenticeship the exemplary teacher would work with the teacher candidate. Exemplary teaching requires personal reflection, conscious deliberation and adjustment, and continuous effort to improve.

Apple or pumpkin pie?

GS: Pumpkin Pie with lots of whipped cream!

View a list of all Arizona National Board Certified Teachers.

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