My English teachers were the highlight of high school
May 10th, 2012
03:14 PM ET

My English teachers were the highlight of high school

Courtesy Bryan ToussaintBy Bryan Toussaint, CNN

Editor’s note: In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week this week, we’re asking our colleagues at CNN to share their stories of teachers who have inspired them. Bryan Toussaint is an associate producer at

I hated high school, or maybe I simply hated adolescence. I found the years between ages 15 and 18 particularly annoying and inconvenient. It was a lot like walking through the security at the airport. Most of us would like to avoid the procedure but going through the experience is the only way to get you closer to where you want to go.

Fortunately, my 11th and 12th grade English teachers, Ms. Kappel and Ms. King, were there to make the adolescence experience a bit more tolerable. They introduced me to Bigger Thomas, Ralph Ellison's invisible man, Holden Caulfield, Basil Duke Lee and other characters that would serve as my surrogate friends.

Many of these characters dealt with the same coming of age issues I faced at that time. Ms. Kappel and Ms. King taught me how to appreciate great literature and through those book reports taught me how to organize my thoughts, how to be a more critical thinker. I'll readily admit that “Invisible Man”, “Native Son” and “The Catcher in theRye” were part of the curriculum.  But I most appreciated the books and short stories they recommended I read outside of what was required, particularly the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I thank Ms. King for that.

May 10th, 2012
02:30 PM ET

Voters in America: Vets Wanted? Educator and Parent Guide

(CNN Student News) - Teachers and Parents: Watch with your students or record "Voters in America: Vets Wanted?" when it airs on CNN on Sunday, May 13 at 8 p.m. ET and PT, or Saturday, May 19 at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and PT. By recording the documentaries, you agree that you will use the documentaries for educational viewing purposes for a one-year period only. No other rights of any kind or nature whatsoever are granted, including, without limitation, any rights to sell, publish, distribute, post online or distribute in any other medium or forum, or use for any commercial or promotional purpose.

The Educator and Parent Guide is provided for teachers and parents to use as a catalyst for discussion and learning if they choose to watch "Voters in America: Vets Wanted?" with their students.

Documentary Description: Multiple deployments interrupt lives and careers and can lead to health and financial challenges. Narrated by former U.S. Army infantryman and motivational speaker J.R. Martinez, "Voters in America: Vets Wanted?" looks at the unique burdens for families of men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it follows the reintegration of members of the Georgia National Guard's 877th Engineer Company into civilian life. Deployed to Afghanistan in December 2010, half of these veterans faced unemployment when they returned to the U.S. The documentary also examines whether the bipartisan Veterans Jobs Bill passed in November 2011 is of any help as our nation's heroes make full transitions back to the lives they left to defend America, and it offers insights into how veterans' unemployment may impact their decisions as they head to the polls this November.

All of the In America parent and teacher educator guides are developed by CNN Student News. CNN Student News is a ten-minute, commercial-free, daily news program for middle and high school students produced by the journalists and educators at CNN. This award-winning show and its companion website are available free of charge throughout the school year.

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Filed under: After High School • CNN Student News • Curriculum • Economy • In America • Military • veterans • video
May 10th, 2012
01:30 PM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today: Recess, New Menus Key to US Obesity Crisis, Report Finds
A recent report from the Institute of Medicine projects that 42% of Americans could by obese by 2030. One recommendation from the institute: at least 60 minutes per day of physical education and activity in schools. Colotl allowed to stay for another year
Federal officials granted Jessica Colotl, the Georgia college graduate at the center of a debate over whether illegal immigrants should attend public colleges, a one-year deferment from deportation. Colotl's case resulted in a state ruling that barred illegal immigrants from many of Georgia's colleges.

Washington Post: Principal urges state ed chief to take standardized tests to see problems with exams
New York principal Sharon Fougner was so upset with questions on recent state standardized tests that she issued a challenge to New York's education commissioner – take the test. In a letter to the commissioner, Fougner reports that many of her students cried during testing, while others simply gave up. "It is unacceptable for eight, nine and ten year olds to be subjected to this kind of torment," Fougner says in her letter.

New York Times: Move to Outsource Teacher Licensing Process Draws Protest
Stanford University is working with education company Pearson on the development of a new national licensure procedure. Of the 68 teacher-candidates at the University of Massachussetts, 67  are protesting the procedure, saying that their colleagues are better equipped to judge them than are paid scorers.  The teacher candidates have also refused to send in required videos of their teaching due to privacy concerns. Columnist smarter than a fifth grader? No way
In a head-to-head knowledge match, a Huntsville Times columnist loses to a Horizon Elementary School fifth grader.

May 10th, 2012
12:14 PM ET

Hollywood stars show appreciation for their teachers

by John Martin, CNN

(CNN) - Actresses Cierra Ramirez, Scarlett Johansson and Eva Mendes recently talked to CNN about some of their favorite teachers. Ramirez said that she appreciates Ms. Sloat for helping Ramirez get through math. Scarlett Johansson said that her 6th grade teacher, Ms. Grossman, helped Johansson develop her conscience and her imagination. Eva Mendes shared a story about lunches with Ms. Prizowski. Mendes also thanked Prizowski for encouraging her.

Ramirez and Mendes star in the film "Girl in Progress", which opens Friday. Johansson received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on May 2 and is currently featured in "The Avengers" movie.

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Filed under: Practice • Teacher Appreciation • video • Voices
It only takes a minute to change a student’s life
May 10th, 2012
11:06 AM ET

It only takes a minute to change a student’s life

Courtesy Scott BurkeyBy Scott Burkey, CNN

Editor’s Note: In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week this week, we’re asking our colleagues at CNN to share their stories of teachers who have inspired them. Scott Burkey is a senior project manager at CNN.

(CNN) - We moved several times when I was in junior high and high school. Each time was more difficult than before. The first time we moved I was 12 and I remember the process of “checking out” of school in the middle of the day before we moved. What happened to me on that one day when I was 12 has had such an impact on me that I’m still talking about it three decades later.

One of the teachers at my junior high school was a geography teacher named Bill Wheaton. I thought it was cool that Mr. Wheaton was missing part of one of his fingers. I imagined it to have been lost in a grizzly battle in Vietnam or in a knife fight with a vicious street gang. I spent many classes daydreaming about how Mr. Wheaton had defended a whole town against invading forces and lost part of his finger in the bloody battle that ensued. It’s silly now to think back about it. But it’s okay because I’m not an overly-serious person.

What Mr. Wheaton did for me wasn’t just in providing daydream material but it was a decision he made on my last day in that small junior high school in the early 1980’s. He made a decision that took him two minutes to make and that impacted my life for many years.

Grading essays: Human vs. machine
May 10th, 2012
06:20 AM ET

Grading essays: Human vs. machine

by Jordan Bienstock, CNN

(CNN) No one thinks twice about using machines to grade multiple-choice tests. For decades, teachers – and students – have trusted technology to accurately decipher which bubble was filled in on a Scantron form.

But can a machine take on the task of evaluating the written word?

A recent study conducted by the College of Education at the University of Akron collected 16,000 middle and high school test essays from six states that had been previously graded by humans. The essays were then fed into a computer scoring program.

According to the researchers, the robo-graders “achieved virtually identical levels of accuracy, with the software in some cases proving to be more reliable.”

So the simple answer to whether machines can grade essays would appear to be yes. However, the situation is anything but simple.

The grading software looks for elements of good writing, such as strong vocabulary and good grammar.

What it isn’t able to do is distinguish nuance, or even truth.

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Filed under: Practice • Testing