A top teacher

December 6th, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Last week it was announced:

An Auckland secondary teacher, who has transformed the teaching of junior science by using new technology to create online lessons and inspiring students to higher levels of achievement, has won New Zealand’s top teaching prize.

, of , has created virtual science lessons to encourage students to think for themselves, learn at their own pace and use new technology, which he says tricks them into learning by having fun.

His outstanding teaching has won him the 2010 Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize worth $150,000, with Steve receiving $50,000 and the remainder going to the Howick College.

The Prime Minister’s Science Prizes were introduced in 2009 to raise the profile and prestige of science among New Zealanders. The five prizes combine recognition and reward, with total prize money of $1 million spread across five awards.

The 41 year old joined Howick College as Head of Junior Science in 2005. Since then, he has rewritten all the junior science programmes and developed new resources including a wealth of activities, videos, worksheets and PowerPoint presentations.

The idea of rewriting junior science programmes and delivering them on a digital platform through the school’s intranet was fuelled by frustration with students falling behind with their work while away from school for sports tournaments, family commitments and holidays.

Through his ‘Virtual Classroom’, students can access their lessons at any time, extending their learning beyond the classroom and enabling them to study at times to suit. Netbooks, laptops and mobile phones replace pen and paper. Students can access resources, instantly message to share information or post questions, ask Steve for help and get instant feedback, all online. They can create cartoons, videos and digital posters to demonstrate their understanding of a topic.

Surveys of Steve’s students during the past three years show a significant increase in academic achievement, motivation, understanding of science and ability to think more creatively. The number of students achieving excellence in their end-of-unit tests has increased from three percent to 53 percent. …

“Those type of teachers are like gold and don’t come around very often,” says Mr Ropati. Steve is also involved in professional coaching and development, with his work helping to improve teaching practices throughout the school.

Steve has a Bachelor of Science (Hons) and a Masters in Education leadership and management. He was last year named a Microsoft Distinguished Teacher.

Isn’t that a great example of how one teacher can make a huge difference.

Teachers like Steve should be on at least $150,000 a year. Probably worth $200,000  a year.

He is obviously a rare find.

Sadly the entrenched interests are against which would allow a school to pay its best teachers enough to keep the top teachers in teaching.

I do not believe there should be a national scale for teachers pay. I think a school should be bulk funded and they should be able to pay the top teachers $150,000 and the bottom teachers $40,000.

We need a system with genuine flexibility.

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29 Responses to “A top teacher”

  1. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    “The number of students achieving excellence in their end-of-unit tests has increased from three percent to 53 percent.”

    That really is a massive improvement actually. Great to see a teacher achieving real results. They’re as scarce as hen’s teeth.

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  2. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    David, a top teacher may well deserve to be paid a premium salary but performance pay is far from straight forward. I’m not averse to it per se, I just think you have to be realistic about the measures; there are so many exogenous factors affecting an individual’s learning, isolating out the teacher is tough. I’ve posted links here before to Australian studies by Andrew Leigh (http://andrewleigh.com/) which are relevant and show how it might work.

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  3. Kimble (4,438 comments) says:

    Poor schools cant afford $200k a year, so he would just go to a rich school. And rich schools have rich kids from rich households who dont gain as much from his teaching skills because rich begets rich.

    Better for him to languish in the a random state school, until he tires of the BS and seeks better opportunities overseas.

    [DPF: Poor schools get more state funding than schools in rich areas. And if they have control of their entire budget, they can easily afford him]

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  4. James Butler (74 comments) says:

    The 41 year old joined Howick College as Head of Junior Science in 2005. Since then, he has rewritten all the junior science programmes and developed new resources including a wealth of activities, videos, worksheets and PowerPoint presentations.

    Gah, just think what he could achieve without this one fundamental mistake!

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  5. Manolo (13,746 comments) says:

    All power to him and my congratulations on his award.

    Science should be the future of this country, so it’s very pleasing to have a dedicated and creative teacher like Mr. Martin.

    I trust he will stay clear from the sticky fingers of the dreadful teachers’ union. :-)

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  6. calendar girl (1,232 comments) says:

    Brilliant success story.

    “Those type of teachers are like gold and don’t come around very often,” says Mr Ropati. Who is the “Mr Ropati” quoted here?

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  7. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    Poor schools cant afford $200k a year, so he would just go to a rich school.

    If a school was bulk-funded, wouldn’t funding be the same? Or are you saying ‘donations’ tilt the field in favour of the schools with rich students.

    edit: I see DPF has commented on Kimble’s comment. ‘Donations’ would still make a big difference, surely…

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  8. labrator (1,850 comments) says:

    Congratulations Mr Martin! Now what ever people do, don’t pull him out of that position and make him write a report or outline document on how he did it…

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  9. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    Totally agree labrator. Top teachers should stay as close to the chalk face as possible but also be released to help their colleagues but not promoted to administrivia!

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  10. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    Give that man an individual contract and a massive pay rise – or a union membership card and a CPI increase. It really is that simple isn’t it.

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  11. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    If the top teachers are on $200K how much are the principals going to be earning? What about the DP’s, heads of department etc etc.

    Nice way to double a schools salary bill.

    [DPF: A principal does not have to be paid more than a top teacher. I've known general managers paid less than the IT Managers that report to them]

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  12. CJD (333 comments) says:

    Sack the cheeky bugger immediately-how dare he innovate. Surely he knows that what he has done will make other teachers look bad…leading to depression and increased drinking. Shame on him-doesn’t he know that comrade Klarke’s people created curriula that should be adhered to to stringently. What happens if these kids grow up to be scientists and want to continue this radical and dangerous innovation trend?? What is wrong with mediocrity in education-look what it did for the Clarke government-nine years in office. And now the boss is in the Unuinited Nations!

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  13. wf (441 comments) says:

    Agree with labrator – and Paul Williams too. Steve Martin would probably enjoy having more time to improve on what he’s doing, not necessarily more money in salary.
    Congratulations that man!

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  14. alwyn (424 comments) says:

    For Calendar Girl at 3.15pm
    I believe he is the school headmaster. At least the headmaster has that surname.
    Spectacular result indeed.
    As far as YWD at 3.36pm is concerned though why should an outstanding teacher’s pay have any effect at all on the other staff, even if they are nominally their superiors.

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  15. Uncompetency (13 comments) says:

    @calendargirl: Iva Ropati is the principal of Howick College, so Steve’s boss.

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  16. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    [DPF: A principal does not have to be paid more than a top teacher. I've known general managers paid less than the IT Managers that report to them]

    It’s tough when the obvious holes in your argument get pointed out and you have no answer. I guess the only way to defend b/s is with more b/s.

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  17. Nick R (507 comments) says:

    Well, if it is as straightforward as DPF reckons, there should already be plenty of excellent teachers on $200k a year working at private schools.

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  18. BeaB (2,123 comments) says:

    Why is it the Prime Ministers prize when we foot the bill for these lavish rewards.

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  19. hmmokrightitis (1,590 comments) says:

    YesWeDid, youre an arse (s’ok dpf, self awarded 10 demerits :) )

    Im paid $40K more than my boss. Im a specialist reporting to a generalist. Happens all the time.

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  20. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    @hmmokrightitis – it’s hardly the way most businesses are run.

    Using the IT industry as the salary model for education is just a desperate way to justify an idealogical position that simply makes no sense in reality.

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  21. pidge (56 comments) says:

    @YesWeDid – Oh! let me fix that for you :)

    Using a fixed, senority based pay scale as the salary model for all industries is just a desperate way to justify an idealogical position that simply makes no sense in reality.

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  22. Steve (4,560 comments) says:

    ” Particularly when it is discovered many teachers are performing like Steve?”
    Steve Martin has been named. Who are these other teachers performing like Steve? There are many, surely their acchievements have not gone unoticed. Or does the ‘many’ mean all teachers?
    Pay cuts? Yep sure, you should get paid on your skill, not the collective skill that covers for the dropkicks

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  23. Viking2 (11,467 comments) says:

    Interesting because now we have a science course capable of being taught on line to many thousands of students with minimum supervision. Think about that and add to that the coming broadband capability. This will become the modern day version of the correspondence school. Take a sample of the best teachers and the best on line teaching and walla we don’t need lots of teachers and we minimize the need for huge schools. Schooling will become decentralized and much more home schooling.
    Way to go.

    Think about all that traffic congestion that can go away and how the boys will be able to sleep in and still get high grades.
    Evolutionary. i.e. if the education dept will actually allow it to happen and dish their jobs.

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  24. Kimble (4,438 comments) says:

    voila not walla

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  25. freedom101 (504 comments) says:

    A clever move by the PM to create this award. What better way to show that not only are some teachers brilliant, but also there is a way of measuring that (deciding who gets the award). For those interested in science – maths, chemistry, physics, finance – go and have a look at http://www.khanacademy.com – hundreds of short online videos, taught by an expert. Mediocre teachers would be terrified of this website becoming widely known.

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  26. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    Viking and freedom

    Schools are as much, if not more, about socialising as about academic performance, unless you want a nation of nerdy misfits.

    All, you should read this primer on the upcoming OECD PIRLS survey: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/dec/05/oecd-education-survey-uk-slipping

    Britain performed poorly, even after over 10 years of national standards (what I call a Stalinist system of education).

    Especially note this by the British Minister of Education: “The first and most important lesson is that no education system can be better than the quality of its teachers. The most successful countries … are those where teaching has the highest status as a profession; South Korea recruits from their top 5% of graduates and Finland from the top 10%.” (emphasis added)

    What do we do here? Treat our cohort of high performing teachers (a fact provable by international comparisons) like Public Enemy No 1.

    I have consistently proven Farrar wrong on education many times, from pay to performance, but he is a stubbornly slow learner, blinded by his Stalinist concept of education.

    I think the report will appear on the OECD website Wednesday our time. Perhaps Farrar will open a post on it. It would be nice to see facts intervene here, once in a while.

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  27. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    And this from Farrar: ,blockquote>[DPF: Poor schools get more state funding than schools in rich areas. And if they have control of their entire budget, they can easily afford him]

    has to be the biggest disconnect from reality I have seen in a long time.

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  28. Anthony (796 comments) says:

    All this stuff about it being difficult to judge who the best teachers are is just crap – sure if you want a fully scientific based scale exactly ranking all teachers then you would have problems – but who wants that. Any dummy can tell within about half an hour of watching a teacher who is a dud and who is actually reasonably good at their job. All the kids know, nearly all the teachers know and sure as hell the principal should know who are the good, bad and indifferent teachers in a school!

    As David said, give principals flexibility with their salary budget and they will pay the good teachers a bit more and the bad ones a bit less. Even better, put all teachers on fixed terms so the duds only have a limited time with the school. Our local school did something similar itself with the new entrants class that started about half way through the year – the teacher employed by the school with its own funding was only employed for the half year. If they were any good they would likely get another job at the school and if they weren’t so good they wouldn’t.

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