In November, Jay Nebel of Norcross High accepted his award as 2013 Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year. Reflecting on this recognition, his classroom experience in Gwinnett, and the profession, Mr. Nebel shares these thoughts and observations:
What about teaching drew you into the profession?
I was influenced to teach and to coach by my parents. My mom was a huge influence on my education. She pushed me to the best I could be and instilled in me a love of writing. She was the greatest English teacher I ever had. My dad was my coaching role model. He was the ultimate teacher-coach, modeling fairness, humor, and knowledge every time he took the field with us.
What's been your greatest moment in a GCPS classroom?
Wow...tough question. I can't pin it down to just one. The greatest moments for me come when I see kids do the unexpected. There's nothing better than seeing a kid who's struggled finally reach success. Whether that success be on a test, a semester grade, or graduation, the expression of excitement and pride that comes across the kid's face is, for lack of a better word, awesome.
Why do you think social studies is an important subject for students to study?
Social studies teaches our kids how to be good citizens and how to be important contributors to their community. By doing so, social studies ultimately works towards maintaining our greatness as a society. By teaching history, economic principals, multi-culturalism, government, and critical thinking skills, we are preparing our students to become successful participants in a world that is constantly changing.
What are some ways that parents can be involved in their student's education?
The answer to this one is actually embedded in the question...parents simply must be involved! There are many ways to involve yourself in your child's education. We as parents (I have two little girls, one a 6th grader in a GCPS middle school and a 4 year old) are busy, but we have to find time to support our kids because we are the most important part of the puzzle that is our kids' success. Being involved can be as simple as asking your child each day how school was and if they have homework. Let them know you care about and value their education. Create an atmosphere at home where your child can sit down and focus on homework and studying. If you don't have access to the parent portal yet, get it! It's a great way to monitor your child's progress and to stay in touch with teachers.
What advice would you give to a high school or college student who's thinking about becoming a teacher?
I would tell these prospective teachers that there's no greater job they could ever find! I would tell them that while they'll face challenges, they'll also be rewarded in ways that no other profession can be. I would tell them to take the preparation towards becoming a teacher seriously so that they are in a position to succeed when they enter the classroom. I would tell them to pick the brains of their mentor teachers when they begin their field observations and student teaching, and then to continue to do so throughout the early stages of their career. Mostly, though, I would tell them to get ready for the ride of their life!
What do you hope to see when you look back on your teaching career?
I hope I can look back at a career that created successful young people. I hope that one day I'll look back at my career and feel contentment, knowing that I did all that I could to promote the success of my students and that my efforts paid off.