Rochester Learning Academy News

Spotlight on Alan Hebert

When you're asking an educator, "Why do you teach?" You might expect the answer, "because I like kids" or "because I want to have an impact". When I asked my colleague of three years, Alan Hebert, the response to the question was an emphatic, "because I hated school." This was, of course, followed by laughter and the reason for his disenchantment. As a student, middle school was frustrating for Hebert or Heb, as we call him, because he said he began to lose interest in school. He thinks it was the teaching style that tended to "derail kids." This conversation was interrupted with a, "yeah!" and a high five from a student who was listening. Hebert added that he wanted to make a difference and keep the kids engaged who had the potential to get lost.

AHebert FullThe next prompt in the informal interview was to ask about Heb's proudest moment in teaching. He paused then began, "it wasn't while I was teaching . . ." Hebert was referring to a time he was working with a student who was in seventh grade but was reading at a first grade level. Hebert identified the student's interest, found the right book, and coupled it with the right reading program. The student progressed. In fact, the student went to the library on his own to find other books in that genre. The swelling moment of pride for Hebert was a telephone call from the parents two years later: the student made the honor roll. (If you're interested, the title of the pivotal book is Cracker. It's about a Vietnam War dog whose story is told through the eyes of both the dog and his owner.)

When asked about his advice for new teachers Hebert recommends "find your niche and be willing to change." He adds that he knows people who were successful teachers but are no longer teaching because they were not willing to accept change or respond to what students were telling them.

The final prompt was to ask Hebert to share his reflections on his experience at RLA/SLC. He said he appreciates the flexibility because "you can tailor what you're doing to meet the needs of the students more effectively." We all know it takes extra work to do this, but we have our reasons: some of us are motivated by bad educational experiences, some by great teachers, some by love of a subject area. However, when you have found your niche, "work" doesn't feel like a burden or overhanging assignment. It's energizing, exciting, and rewarding. Regardless of how we all landed here, this is what we share and that's why we're here.