Jeff Delp is the principal of Willis Junior High School in Chandler, Arizona. He has worked in the Chandler Unified School District for 12 years, also teaching math and science. Jeff is a strong supporter of incorporating technology and social media into education to expand and enhance the learning experience. He believes technology is important to a well-rounded education and that it can individualize instruction, allowing students to learn in the way that is best for them. Jeff is active on Twitter and publishes a blog, Molehills out of Mountains, which was nominated for an EduBlog award for Best Administrator Blog of the Year.
Education was not Jeff’s initial career goal, but like many great teachers, he was inspired by other educators.
“I studied biological sciences in college and considered a career in the medical field," Jeff explains. "It wasn't until I finished my undergraduate degree that I decided on teaching as a profession. My grandmother was a lifelong educator, so she certainly had a significant influence on my decision. I can't say there was a specific moment when I decided teaching was for me, but when I made that decision, I knew it was the right one.”
Jeff went into administration, but all of his work has been with middle school students, an age group that he finds “invigorating” because of all the “energy, enthusiasm and resilience of students at this age.”
“I love being part of a service profession and having an opportunity, every day, to have a positive impact on the lives of young people," Jeff says. "If you are doing things right, it is an extremely challenging profession — attempting to connect with, encourage and engage every single one of your students — but that challenge is a huge draw for me... I honestly believe that teaching is an art. I love the planning, problem-solving and creativity this profession requires. Teaching is a dynamic profession, perpetually changing, which requires good educators to commit to life long learning. Learning new things, trying new activities and implementing new strategies keeps the job from becoming stale. Every day is truly a new opportunity.”
On Being a Great Teacher
Great teachers must go above and beyond in the way they interact with their students, teach creatively and strive to provide the best education possible. According to Jeff, “Great teachers never settle. They are constantly looking for ways to improve. They are not afraid to take appropriate risks and try new things. They understand how critical it is to develop connections with their students, and they adopt the attitude that they are the personal advocates for the wellbeing of every single student who walks in their classroom door. Great teachers understand that education is not about a school, a classroom or a lesson plan... it is about the individual needs of each and every student. That is what makes teaching such a challenge and such a great profession.”
Efforts in education reform at the state and federal levels raise the question of whether America has a shortage of great teachers. In Jeff’s opinion, “[There are] so many fantastic educators who are committed to the profession, but I also know we need more. We need more people in the profession who will bring an understanding of the importance of a 21st Century skill set — creativity, collaboration, empathy, difference making... Most teachers choose the profession because they are dedicated to serving others and they value problem solving and creativity. We need to trust teachers to pursue their passions in a way that will engage students in the learning process, and we need to provide them the time and resources necessary to do so effectively.”
On Technology and Education
As principal of Willis Junior High School, Jeff actively encourages teachers to incorporate technology and social media into the classroom: “One of the most important things an administrator or teacher who is comfortable with social media and technology can do is model its use in day-to-day activities. I use a variety of web-based tools in faculty meetings, during professional development and throughout my daily routine... I don't mandate its use, but I try to show how technology can encourage engagement and demonstrate how it can improve productivity. I routinely pass along blog posts, articles and teaching resources that I find through Twitter and other social media venues. This illustrates the value of these tools to the development of an effective professional learning network. Building connections is such a vital part of life-long learning and an essential element to challenging yourself personally and professionally.
“Social media and web-based tools provide us with tremendous potential for developing students who are effective communicators, collaborators and creators. 21st century educators have an opportunity to utilize tools like Twitter and Facebook to show students how, through connections with others, they can learn about other cultures, share ideas, innovate and be difference makers.”