Sebastien Paul De Clerck
In this series, we profile each of the three CTA members among the 2013 California Teachers of the Year. Sebastien Paul De Clerck teaches French and Italian for grades 9-12 at Ventura High School. He was selected for his positive interaction with students, for his high expectations for them in the classroom, and for “not just closing the achievement gap — but demolishing it.” He is a member of the Ventura Unified Education Association.
Favorite classroom strategies
I give few assignments. I am not interested in making them work; I want to make them think. I want to guide discovery, not give answers. I ask questions that help students reflect on who they are, where they are, and what they want to know. We read aloud together, not working toward predetermined goals or seeking specific answers, but exploring questions as they arise.
Favorite classroom resources
Music, movies and text from any culture that is not their own are perfect vehicles to provide students the opportunity to think something they have not thought before, to question their perspectives, or to redefine their understanding of our world. I’d have a harder time exposing students to these without an iPod, good speakers, an LCD projector, the Internet and a laptop. I understand the value of technology in learning.
Favorite Internet links
The strength of the Internet is its ability to bring the outside world into the classroom. It renders classroom learning more relevant and allows students to interface with information that has not been artificially filtered or edited for classroom purposes. For this reason, I prefer sites that are geared to noneducational purposes over those created with classrooms and teachers in mind. My personal favorites are YouTube and NPR.
Words to live by
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” —Marcel Proust.
On having a mentor
I’ve had many mentors, but the most meaningful and current is my colleague in German, Mr. David Reich. I arrived eight years ago thinking I knew how to teach language. I was wrong. David reminded me to constantly question the nature of my practice. Thanks to David, I overcame the frightening and daunting challenge of changing everything I did; I redefined and redesigned my methods and pedagogy. He gave me the “new eyes” Proust talks about.
Favorite books for professional development or classroom use
Any foreign language or EL teacher should be familiar with Dr. Stephen Krashen’s works on language acquisition, Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning and Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. The predictions made in these two studies ought to shape all foreign language and EL instruction. For professional development use, I recommend Sir Ken Robinson’s book, Out of Our Minds.
Why I stay in teaching
That’s easy: I laugh a lot. I learn each day. Being a teacher does not make life easy, but it makes it worth living. I love it.
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