She is young, from the midwest, with ten years of teaching experience, and keeps her high school students engaged in learning. She is Sarah Brown Wessling, teacher of the year, and she was introduced by the President in a ceremony in the Rose Garden.
She is not the only teacher to keep her students engaged in learning, and on the surface it seems her methods are innovative. Besides essays, her students write public service announcements, songs, storyboards for films, and grant proposals for self-created non-profit organizations.
But the critics are lining up to criticize her for using Facebook in the classroom. Many seasoned teachers note that their school districts do not allow Facebook or MySpace access inside the school buildings. Others point out that there have always been innovative teachers. Innovative economics teachers have had high school students learn how to fill out their own tax forms, for example.
The president’s remarks included admonishment of parents to get more involved in the education of their children, and reiteration of the importance of education as a basis for a strong democracy. Many critics note that she is young, white and attractive. And many question how many more experienced teachers with even greater innovation in methodology were passed over for the honor. Others question the performance of her students on standardized testing, pointing out that her innovations, while interesting, might be putting her students at risk for meeting state standards.