Quality teaching demands recognition outside of the classroom.
John Maddux is an alumnus of the biology department at Missouri State University and teacher at Festus Senior High School.
Maddux shares how his award-winning teaching fuels the reward of student success.
Tending to student growth
Maddux views his role as a teacher as comparable to that of a gardener.
Like with a garden, building a safe environment for learning key skills is crucial to fostering growth in the classroom, he shares.
“It’s students who have to do the growing. And sometimes factors outside of the space in which we tend to their needs will help or hinder that growth,” he said.
“But quality teaching based in a safe, supportive learning environment can yield students who continue growing in knowledge for the rest of their lives.”
Key practices for sustaining learning
As a teacher, Maddux strives to foster sustainable learning practices. This means shaping students into informed citizens as much as active classroom participants.
The goal has led Maddux to take an interactive approach to leading instruction.
“I provide students opportunities to have challenging conversations and put their arguments into writing,” he said. “I also aim to teach them how to gather evidence that answers their own questions and how to collaborate with peers to solve problems.”
With these practices, Maddux aims to overcome barriers posed by simply memorizing details of class curriculum.
Crossing these barriers can be key to supporting public awareness among students, he stresses.
“We need students to be smart, capable and empathetic citizens,” Maddux said. “Helping them build knowledge is crucial to making the world of tomorrow a better place than it is today.”
His path to career success
Maddux received a Knowles Teaching Fellowship before beginning his first year as a teacher.
The program is led through the Knowles Teacher Initiative. It serves to offer professional support to secondary math and science teachers in the United States.
“I can’t emphasize how much the fellowship experience impacted my teaching,” Maddux said. “The support of Knowles and the other teachers in my cohort helped shape my long-term path in the teaching discipline.”
Maddux started his teaching career at the Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience.
He credits the school with providing him early freedom in exploring his teaching practice and exposure to diverse cultures and perspective.
Maddux eventually joined the Festus R-VI School District, where he continues teaching today.
The experience teaching at Festus Senior High School has been equally as impactful, he shares.
“At Festus, I have had wonderful opportunities to collaborate with outstanding teachers. This has pushed me to learn from others,” Maddux said. “Winning the NABT award wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my Festus colleagues.”
What to expect when you’re expecting (to teach)
Much like parenting, Maddux explains, the experience of teaching is difficult to imagine.
“Everything changes, which makes for a nonstop learning experience,” he said.
Preparing for all conditions of teaching can be challenging. But there’s one thing Maddux suggests all students as budding teachers bring to the classroom: excitement.
“The newness of being in your own classroom where you can feel like a real teacher is something to be excited about,” he said. “There’s great reward in leading classroom practices that build students’ capacity to serve as lifelong learners.”
About the NABT award
NABT grants one Outstanding Biology Teacher Award in each state or territory each year.
Teachers must receive a nomination to be eligible for the award. They must also submit an application, a teaching video, letters of recommendation and teaching essays to qualify.
A NABT review committee makes ultimate award decisions in each state or territory.
“I have been a member of NABT since my second year of teaching. It’s the professional organization I have been most inspired by as a biology teacher,” Maddux said. “I think very highly of the organization. For them to reflect that view back on me feels like a true accomplishment.”