Top teacher deserves honor

Published 10:01 pm Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Many of us, if we are especially lucky, can remember a teacher from elementary, middle or high school who made a lasting impression, whose contribution to our education went well beyond the simple conveyance of facts, whose teaching inspired and captivated and motivated us to pursue goals we once would not otherwise have considered.

For some of us, this was an English teacher, perhaps one who helped us realize a lifelong love of reading. For others it might have been a history teacher who brought more than a litany of names and dates into her lectures, inspiring in us a desire to learn ever more about how we got to where we are today. Maybe it was the drama teacher who exposed an unexpected theatrical talent or the music teacher who did the same.

Such teachers usually share a talent for going beyond the mundane, a penchant for developing teaching plans that call for student interaction and creativity. And such teachers usually end up at the top of the list of favorites, both from students and from fellow teachers. Such teachers often wind up named as Teacher of the Year in the districts where they work.

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It is unfortunately rare, though, for such teachers to be mathematics instructors. This year in Suffolk, however, the rarity became reality as Susan Braford, who teaches math analysis and Advanced Placement calculus at King’s Fork High School, was chosen as the Teacher of the Year for Suffolk Public Schools.

“She is a gem in Suffolk who has made a positive impact on thousands of students for many years,” King’s Fork Principal Suzanne Moore said of Braford.

Braford is noted for taking extra time with students, teaching to a variety of learning styles and integrating technology into her lessons. She offers Saturday study sessions for her students and hosts a “Lunch Bunch” that exposes kids to experts in mathematics-based fields.

Braford aspires to change lives through teaching by example, applying her lessons to real-life situations and making math less scary.

“As teachers, you can’t be the sage on the stage, but the guide on the side,” she said. “My favorite part is when the kid says, ‘Oh, I get it.’ It’s seeing the light come on.”

Especially in a world in which science, technology, engineering and mathematics play so important a role in the future of society — not to mention students’ employment prospects — it is gratifying to see this honor go to such a deserving teacher and to someone who is teaching a subject that for so many students can be dry and uninteresting.