MURRAY, KEN Enlarge
Ron Clark, former Disney Teacher of the Year, says there are just 55 simple rules for becoming an outstanding teacher.
While the number may seem overwhelming, Mr. Clark said all the rules aim to get children to appreciate life and seek out new experiences.
“I want these kids to walk out of my classroom confident,” he said. “I want them to have pride in themselves.”
Mr. Clark will discuss his struggles as an educator and outline his teaching methods in two appearances this week at the Stranahan Theater. He will speak as part of the Junior League of Toledo's Town Hall Lecture Series tonight and tomorrow.
After teaching near his hometown in rural North Carolina for five years, Mr. Clark decided he could make an impact on an inner-city school district, so he headed to New York City.
He taught fifth and sixth grades at a public school in Harlem for two years. Walt Disney Co. named Mr. Clark its Outstanding Teacher of the Year for 2000.
Disney selects the outstanding teacher from thousands of nominations by students and community members nationwide. Winners receive $25,000, with their schools getting $10,000.
Since accepting the award in 2001, Mr. Clark has toured the country speaking about his experiences. He lives in Atlanta.
This year, he published a book called The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator's Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child. The book explains his 55 rules for teaching.
Many of the rules describe how he taught students to respect themselves, classmates, and teachers by emphasizing courtesies like eye contact and table manners.
The book also explains how he earned students' trust by learning double-dutch jump roping and giving out his home phone number for homework questions.
“Kids just want to be loved and cared for, and they want your attention,” he said.
When Mr. Clark traveled to Los Angeles for the final interview in the Disney teaching award contest, he demonstrated his attachment to his students by taking them along. He raised more than $16,000 from businesses to pay for the students' travel expenses.
Mr. Clark said his rules can help people relate better with others in many aspects of their lives, not just teaching.
“The strategies I use with my kids really apply to everyone,” he said. “They're universal.”
Tickets to the Stranahan Theater lectures are $25 for the general public and $20 for educators. Advance tickets are available from the Junior League office.