Kennedy High freshman English teacher Aaron Colacion does it his way. And because of that the school and the district may reap a financial reward. The third-year teacher is one of five finalists competing for the Bay Area’s 2013 Comcast SportsNet All-Star Teacher Award. Grand prize: $20,000.
Colacion said if he won the twenty-grand he’d like to buy Kennedy High School small Acer computers called Nettops. He said because students are so strapped for computer lab time, that would help pupils the most.
The teacher contest, sponsored by Comcast, will announce the vote-in winner at a San Francisco Giants’ baseball game on June 5. Voting begins at 9 a.m. on April 15, and ends at the stroke of midnight on June 2.
There are two ways to vote for the five finalists: Send a text message with the teacher’s last name to the short code 82653 or use Comcast’s online voting form.
“I don’t think I’m any better than a lot of people out there—I just think maybe not as many teachers applied,” said Colacion, a former U.S. Youth Olympic Development Program soccer player. “My outlook on teaching is that most people, adults included, stop enjoying schooling after primary school. In primary school you’re stimulating all your faculties, and in high school we narrow it down to usually analytic and auditory [learning].”
Colacion’s students may not know he models his teaching style after grade school teachers, but it really doesn’t matter—his students stay on task and enjoy learning.
“I don’t want to talk bad about the other teachers, it’s just he has this demeanor about him,” said former student and graduating senior Jacob Qualls. “A lot of teachers are kind of one dimensional. If he could tell the kids weren’t getting it, he’d tell it in a funner way, or something physical like kinetic learning.”
“It was a no-brainer for me,” Kennedy High special education teacher Salvatore Morabito, 71, said about his sole Comcast nomination. “Students learn through project-based lessons which include audio-visual presentations, community engagement, field experience, and public speaking practice. His students feel valued and self-direct their learning. They are always on-task and aware of their learning goals.”
Colacion said he focuses his time and energy on creating active lesson plans that stimulate pro-social behaviors. “I can’t speak for where [my freshman] are coming from but I can just only speak from what I see—and what I see are students that don’t have a sense of what it means to be in a school environment,” he said. “I believe that because when I ask them to do something that is a standard academic or behavioral expectation, they’re almost shocked like ‘Why do I have to do that?’”
When Colacion sees a student resisting education he said he has to call upon the Three C’s: calm, concise, and consistent instruction. “It’s just like water,” he said of his zen-like technique. “Over time students mold into shape. They enjoy the pattern and organization [of the classroom] and want to be part of it. They think it’s funny and exciting when they get in here. They’re not angry about it.”
“His class is different than other classes because he has things right on spot, and we have a certain time to complete our tasks—order by order,” Diego Herrera, 14, said about his English teacher. “What I like about him is that he gives direction pretty clear, and he helps me understand better. He uses a lot of descriptions about what our tasks are and has examples of what we’re supposed to do.”
“Colacion is one of the special teachers that is going places,” Kennedy High Principal Phillip Johnson said. “If you go into his classroom you will sit back and be in awe of what he’s doing. He’s using a lot of technology and makes sure all those students are engaged in his classroom. To be honest, he’s one of the best teachers that we have on this campus.”