2019 A+ Educator: David Hyett
New Eagle Elementary School
His Nominators Say:
“Mr. Hyett gets to know his students and brings out the best in them as if they were his own children. He takes the time to understand and adjust his teaching style to best meet his students’ individual learning needs. He couples this unique understanding with a great sense of humor and creative assignments that engage the students. An example of his creative lessons include teaching his fourth grade class about economics, responsibility, and the world. He sets up many systems to earn and spend “Hyett Dollars.” The students earn these dollars (and keep track of them in a checkbook) for reading while also learning about the states with his Read Across America tool. They use their “Hyett dollars” for expenses, much like they might find in the real world, such as renting and buying their desks as well as utilities. The kids really enjoy using “Hyett Dollars” on fun toys and items they shop for at the class store he runs. This is just a small sample of all the wonderful reasons why Mr. Hyett is an A+++ Educator. He is the type of teacher you wish your child could have every year. He goes above and beyond; but, mostly he connects with his students, builds trust, and gets them excited about learning. He is a bright star that any student would be lucky to have at New Eagle Elementary school.” – The Mott Family
Get To Know David
What made you want to be a teacher/educator? When did you decide that was your path?
I got into education as a career in my later twenties. I really hated school and fell behind until middle school. Things changed in my family dynamic at that point and I was more open to putting in the work when I met my eighth grade English teacher. He literally saved my life. Years later I wrote him a few letters telling him the impact he had on me, but I found out he’d passed away. I was devastated and guilty I didn’t reach out earlier. In the end, I decided to change my career path and dedicate my life to him for what he did for me.
What is your teaching philosophy?
I always am trying to build a community of responsible citizens first and foremost. I think my room needs to be a safe place for kids who feel comfortable taking risks, and trust is a huge part of that. If they don’t trust me and feel safe, it doesn’t matter how good a teacher someone is because we won’t be able to access their minds. Curriculum is important, but I’m proudest of watching them grow into good people. I focus on one big thing with my students both socially and threaded through the curriculum: there are always different points of view and in order to see most clearly you have to see through both eyes. When we learn about the American Revolution, I spend a great deal of time seeing things from the British perspective. When there is conflict on the playground, I make sure both sides explain how actions make them feel.
How do you make your classroom/teaching environment feel welcoming and dynamic?
One thing I like to do is get to know the kids at younger grade levels through clubs, sports, etc. I think it makes my job easier in the beginning of each school year if they’re familiar with me. After that, the first thing I try to do is show them that while they are kids, I see them and treat them like people. I joke around a lot, but I always set the precedent that they need to learn the rules before breaking them.
What would you love for the parents of your kids to know?
Well I hope they would already know because I try to maintain constant open communication with homes. But I’d say that I’d want them to understand that my goal is creating an environment where their children are understood, and their voices heard. I’m basically a dad to 50 kids a year without any of the tuition concerns.
How do you encourage reluctant learners?
I’m always as open and honest with them as I can possibly be. I tell it like it is and how I struggled as a kid in school and that every day isn’t filled with things we want to do. But each day is filled with responsibilities, and so I try to show them how to chunk these into bite-sized, manageable pieces interspersed with personal rewards.
How do you resolve problems in the classroom, if a student is disruptive, for example, or if two students aren’t getting along?
I encourage them first to try to work things out on their own because I think that’s empowering. I’ll sit with them as a mediator and let them both share how they’re feeling, and I try to direct them to see how their actions or words are making the other feel whether it was meant harmfully or not. There will always be problems in the classroom–it’s unrealistic to expect 24 people to live in a small room together under stressful conditions and not have there be conflict. But mistakes and conflict are the greatest teachers.
How can you tell when your material is connecting with your students? How do you measure progress?
Has teaching changed since you started?
Superficially it has for sure. There are different demands, different expectations, different standardized tests. Life is harder for them now socially and academically. But I try to keep in mind the basic principles of learning: People of all ages are curious by nature and want to learn. They may not want to be here, or the way we must administer the curriculum may change, but the bottom line is the same.
How do you prepare for the first day of school?
I always voluntarily go into my classroom towards the end of summer to slowly get my room and plans together. It’s a calming ritual for me. I have a plan on how to get through the first day, but my approach is always the same: make them want to return.
What has been the most rewarding thing about teaching?
I work in an incredible district with incredible kids and incredible families. Every day is a reward and I truly mean that. If I can make any kind of impact on a student or family or the district, then that’s the greatest reward for me.