Educator of the Year | Teen Ink

Educator of the Year

May 9, 2018
By Anonymous

It may seem an impossible feat to have children in elementary school take charge of their own learning and act in a respectful manner while having fun the entire time, but Mr. Harrop did exactly that. He taught a new program at Hartland South which had a mix of third, fourth, and fifth graders. I went there when it started up in my fourth and fifth grades, and my younger siblings also had him as a teacher for three years each.

Mr. Harrop always preferred minimal lecture time, and much more time spent individually researching subjects each student was passionate about. He emphasised the importance of learning at one’s own pace, instead of following a set curriculum. In math I could work far ahead in an online program, and he made sure that I always had something to challenge myself with once I was at a pre-algebra level. This was what put me ahead in math: this year I will be finishing Calculus BC as a junior because of how he challenged me to learn as much as I could over six years ago.

Mr. Harrop also taught me the importance of professionalism, attentiveness, and work ethic. The class would meet sitting in a circle, and he made sure that we were always making eye contact and engaging with whoever was speaking. We never raised hands, yet a group of 8 through 11 year olds managed to speak politely and professionally in a large group. When we would do our own projects we wrote up formal proposals; my biggest project was a group project where we set up a “class economy” that included stores that each student would have and “jobs” around the classroom where each student had some responsibility. Additionally, I learned about the “real world” when I was given the opportunity to participate in the job interviews for teachers. I also presented in front of a large forum of teachers about our class. Mr. Harrop was like Gandalf, bringing us on an adventure out into the real world.

Mr. Harrop strengthened our values of respect and compassion. Sometimes we would do an activity called “Rockstar” where a student would sit and every student in the class would complement them. He also taught us how to give constructive criticism and avoid backhanded compliments. If a student was rude to another he would have them “take 2” and take a short break, and then they could come back with a clean slate.

Part of the reason we all were so focused and active in our learning was that Mr. Harrop always made sure that we got out our energy and spent plenty of time doing “energizers:” games and other activities that gave us a break but kept us focused the rest of the day. Most of the games we played he would make up himself, and unlike most other teachers he would be right in the middle playing them. I already knew who he was before he was my teacher because during recess he would always be on the playground inviting others to join in whatever game he was running.

Mr. Harrop made sure that for everything that we did we learned from it and improved ourselves.  Through playing games utilizing lateral thinking puzzles like Mindtrap we learned deductive reasoning and logical thinking at an early age. This improved, or perhaps was even responsible for, my ability to quickly catch on in math and computer science concepts (I learned computer programming in middle school, and I was mostly self-taught in that area). Though the energizers looked like simple games, we improved our teamwork and motor skills.

Since my younger siblings had him as a teacher in the following years, I know that he is always improving his teaching style through the games we would play. He introduced a board game to my brother’s class that required teamwork, as every character was on the same team and they could not lose a single member in order to win the game. We would also frequently spend time outside doing a myriad of activities, one of the highlights was when we had a biologist come in weekly and explore ecological concepts with us. I could go on, as this was the highlight of his teaching style.

Mr. Harrop empowered me, as well as my siblings and classmates, to have a different perspective on learning, professionalism, responsibility, and critical thinking, all while having lighthearted fun. It is hard to stop talking about the life lessons and skills he planted in me at a young age that have blossomed as I grew.

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