Dr. Doug Doblar, who teaches science to Head ES 4th and 5th graders, was named GCPS’ top teacher on Nov. 9. Following are his reflections on his career, the importance of STEM, and a message for teachers from his students. Watch this video to hear more and get a peek inside his classroom.
What about teaching drew you into the profession?
“I got really lucky that I enjoyed the teaching profession. In high school and college, I really liked math, so I decided to go into teaching it. I just had a provisional certificate when I started, and I hadn't spent any time student teaching or even working with kids in any capacity. I just really liked math, so teaching it seemed like a logical career choice. I've since learned that teachers who enter the profession because they have a passion for what they teach usually end up miserable and looking for a different career pretty quickly. It just so happened that I really liked working with kids, too, which is the real key to thriving in the profession. What you teach is never going to be rewarding enough to sustain you; you have to love who you teach to make it. I didn't know that when I started, and I feel really lucky that I ended up loving working with kids as much as I do.”
As a science teacher, how do you help your students fulfill their promise?
“I really feel like, in elementary school, science should be most kids’ favorite subject. Science is all about looking at what has been right in front of you for your whole life, and asking why and how it got like that. We all create an understanding of the world around us, and science gives students the chance to completely reshape that understanding. When it all comes down to it, science is a great chance to show students that the world is naturally interesting and worth learning about, which can help develop their whole view of learning and school.”
In what ways does a strong STEM education prepare students for their future?
“For the last few decades, all the growth in career opportunities has been in the STEM fields, and that doesn’t seem to be slowing down in the least. Those fields look like they’ll offer the most opportunity, the best opportunity, and the most interesting work environments for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, by the time kids are old enough to understand that, it is often too late to change the trajectory of their interest in those fields. So, there is a huge need for teachers to start developing kids’ excitement about and understanding of STEM fields from an early age so that, by the time students need to decide to pursue those areas seriously, they are well educated in them and have an interest in them.”
What advice would you give to a high school or college student who's thinking about becoming a teacher?
“Examine your motivation carefully! As I mentioned about myself, if your motivation for becoming a teacher is loving what you teach, you're very likely to be disappointed. You have to love who you teach to be fulfilled. For high school students, the choice of college you make could have a gigantic impact on how quickly you become a truly effective teacher. I've seen a big difference on how prepared brand-new teachers are coming from different universities, and it isn't always the highest profile colleges that turn out the best graduates. I would suggest talking to principals and asking them where they are finding the best-prepared new teachers. Some universities have their students in classrooms as early as the first and second year, and spend a lot of time on practical preparation. Graduates of programs like those are often very, very good teachers in their first year.”
What do you hope to see when you look back on your teaching career?
“I want to look back and know that, at every new stage of my career, I did the absolute best job I was capable of doing at the time for the kids I served. I never want to look back and see a time when I had the means to be a better teacher, and didn’t take advantage of it.”
A message from Dr. Doblar’s students about how a great teacher makes a difference…
“Before the Teacher of the Year Banquet, I asked my class what I should tell all the Gwinnett County Teachers of the year if I won,” says Dr. Doblar.
Here’s what they said:
— “Having a great teacher makes me not just want to learn, but want to learn MORE than even what we do in class.”
— “When I have a great teacher, I feel like I can keep trying when I make mistakes until I get it right instead of just wanting to give up.”
— “When I have a great teacher, I feel like I’m involved in something special and I’m important. Like I got lucky and get to be in this special club that not everybody got to be in.”
— “When I have a great teacher, it makes me want to go to college because I realize school doesn’t have to be boring.”
— “When I have a great teacher, I don’t want to leave. I’m not waiting for recess or specials or the end of the day. I’m disappointed when it is time to go.”
— “When I have a great teacher, I’m scared to be absent. I’m afraid I might miss something exciting that everybody else got to do.”