Nation’s top teacher returns to McDaniel for SmartTALK

October 03, 2011

National top teacher Michelle Meredith Shearer M.S. ’96 took the podium at McDaniel’s fourth SmartTALK proudly wearing her “I am McDaniel” button and, turning first to President Roger Casey, said she wasn’t ready to give him back her good-luck charm.

Then the college’s newly elected president, Casey met Shearer for the first time in October of 2010 at the Maryland Teacher of the Year gala held in Baltimore and handed her the “I Am McDaniel” button for good luck. Within the hour, Shearer was named the state’s top teacher.

President Roger Casey and Michelle Shearer discuss the teaching profession and American education at the fourth session in the college’s SmartTALK series.

She returned to campus a few weeks later for Homecoming proudly wearing the button, and again Shearer wore her button to a panel discussion on the future of American education held April 12 as part of the Casey’s Inauguration Celebration week. There, Casey made a prediction: “Wear the button,” and it would ensure her selection as the nation’s top teacher. He also made a request: after the May 3 ceremony at the White House, could Shearer please return that button so he could keep it for his own good luck.

Still the good-luck charm remained securely attached to Shearer’s lapel as she addressed a packed audience in Decker Center’s Forum, clearly advocating for the teaching profession and a close relationship between teacher and student.

“The best teachers spend all day, every day, understanding and helping their students become better learners,” Shearer said. “We need to believe teaching is a serious career choice.

“There are too many outdated stereotypes. We must change that perception at a young age so students can make a clear career choice.”

McDaniel Board of Trustees Chair Martin K.P. Hill presented Shearer with the prestigious Trustee Alumni Award in recognition of the credit she brings to her alma mater and for her professional and personal accomplishments.

President Roger Casey, Trustee Alumni Award recipient Michelle Shearer and Martin K.P. Hill

In her talk, Shearer dismissed the outdated “3 R’s,” commenting that since only one of the Reading, Writing and Arithmetic” trio starts with an “R” she doesn’t know how it came to be in the first place. Instead, she looks to the “4 C’s” as skills every teacher mentors in their students.

“Only the content is different – students should be learning Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creative Problem Solving,” she said.

And those four C’s, Shearer explained, are exactly what her response would include had she been able to give Congress the pep talk President Obama asked her to during the May 3 White House ceremony celebrating her National Teacher of the Year award.

“What would I say to Congress? Communicate. Collaborate. Think critically. Solve problems creatively,” Shearer said, mirroring the audience’s laughter with a wide grin.