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Following up on winners of the 1997 Sallie Mae First Class Teacher Award: A phenomenology of commitment to teaching

Frederick J Skretta, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to describe the phenomenon of commitment to teaching as experienced and enunciated by 12 winners of the 1997 Sallie Mae First Class Teacher Award (SMFCTA) who were still serving as classroom teachers or in some other role as an educator. The SMFCTA, sponsored by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and the Sallie Mae Corporation, was awarded for a 16-year period from 1984 to 2000 to recognize beginning teachers from across the United States for outstanding performance in their first year of service in the profession. The researcher was the Nebraska winner of the 1997 SMFCTA and is now a high school principal. ^ This study was conducted within a phenomenological framework and data were collected from semi-structured telephone interviews conducted at the end of the participants’ 12th year in education. Results and interpretations were distilled from the 12 interviews through a constructivist lens, through the interaction of the researcher with the research subjects, and with acknowledgement of the researcher’s own experience of the phenomenon of commitment to teaching. ^ Some participants experienced unwavering commitment to teaching over their careers, while others faced serious challenges to their commitment. Despite different experiences in distinct schools and settings across the United States, a clear set of themes emerged from the data to formulate a description of the phenomenon of commitment to teaching. These are characterized in the research findings as dimensions of commitment to teaching, and include: (a) student focus—which was extended by some participants to include the sense of significance, purpose, and lasting impact of their work with students; (b) work ethic, effort, and dedication to continuous improvement and lifelong learning; (c) investment and ownership; (d) passion; (e) balanced and prioritized commitment; and, (f) commitment to teaching from outside of the classroom teacher role. ^ Participants provided suggestions to help foster, strengthen, and support commitment to teaching. In the end, all of the participants remained committed to teaching—whether they now serve as teachers or in some other role as an educator. Several of them reported that the interview itself was a positive experience and that it helped refine and re-focus their commitment to teaching. ^

Subject Area

Education, Sociology of|Education, Administration|Education, Teacher Training

Recommended Citation

Skretta, Frederick J, "Following up on winners of the 1997 Sallie Mae First Class Teacher Award: A phenomenology of commitment to teaching" (2009). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3344654.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3344654

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