Free Lance-Star reporter Amy Umble covers Stafford County schools and other education issues

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What makes a good teacher?

Yesterday, I posted about Gov. Bob McDonnell declaring 2013 the Year of the Teacher, and asked you guys to talk about some of your favorite teachers. This created quite a conversation on the Facebook page. Many of you mentioned an inspiring teacher or two. It made me curious: What makes a good teacher? It’s something that everyone wonders about these days, as school divisions and state governments struggle to find a way to evaluate teachers. You can read a story I wrote about Virginia’s new teacher evaluation system here.

Virginia is not alone in the country in trying to figure out a way to find and compensate effective teachers and to improve those who are struggling. But it’s tough to find a fair way to evaluate teachers. The most unobjective data comes from student test scores, but is it fair to judge a teacher’s career on how some students do on a one-day test? Especially when today’s educators are teaching students with disabilities, mental illness, family struggles and homelessness.

It’s a national conversation, and it will be interesting to see how it turns out. Personally, I can’t remember many things I learned for a test. I can tell you the four common traits of totalitarian dictators–because a world history teacher assigned a project to create a brochure on “How to Be a Totalitarian Dictator.” And when I watch commercials, I know which advertising technique they’re using because of a project in my gifted and talented class. And I know my fractions because a math teacher who was also a baker taught us using beautifully decorated cakes as an object lesson.

So what do you think? What makes an effective teacher? What lessons do you remember most from school and why?