The Kenneth S. Goodman "In Defense of Good Teaching" Award
Bess Bess Altwerger, a Professor of Graduate Reading at Towson University in Maryland, is an exceptional teacher who engages her students and pushes their thinking. Most of all, she is a defender of good teachers. Her professional life is devoted to the political context of teaching. Her research takes place in classroom settings to critique the impact of reading materials on learning and her writing focuses on developing critical literacy, theory and practice to revive joyful learning. In order to raise professionals’ consciousness, she has organized political conference days at the Whole Language Umbrella on the politics of literacy, whole language and high stakes testing.
Her life’s work involves educators in acting collectively to impact the lives of student’s with justice and optimism. She promoted Demands for an Education Rights Movement and a possible Million Teacher March and with friends like Rick Meyer, organized the national Save Our Schools March and Rally. With unbelievable effort, they planned and organized a massive undertaking which continues to this day with an SOS committee in each state.
He played a central role in creating the largest Mexican American/Raza Studies program in the U.S. centered on student empowerment, anti-racist, multicultural curriculum with a social justice emphasis. He is committed to his students, dedicated to his discipline, and driven to excellence. He has developed courses in Chicana/o, social justice and resistance literature. Many of the students enrolled in his classes were abandoned by the educational system as too difficult to educate; yet they have excelled in this program.
In the past several years, he and his colleagues have been singled out by the State Superintendent of Education by promoting a law passed by the legislature that targeted TUSD’s Mexican American Studies program as promoting ethnic resentment and advocating the overthrow of the United States. His reading lists and teaching have been scrutinized by state-appointed auditors. His district was threatened with budget reductions. As a result the program was disbanded in 2012 and a suit is still pending. Curtis Acosta exemplifies what it means to teach in difficult times.
She is a highly successful emphasizing the vision of Reggio Emilia with its focus on authentic learning. Through her deep knowledge, her young learners become fully capable of engaging in their own inquiry and problem solving.
With her students and their parents, she established gardens at Ochoa Community Magnet School growing healthy foods and building chicken coops for themselves and others with limited food access. She helps children study the role of borders -- borders that are opened to learn about others and ways to overcome borders that separate people that become barriers to children’s well being. She explores the limitations of traditional classrooms and encourages their discovery of the roles children play in their own learning at teachers’ conferences highlighting the power of children’s learning when schools incorporate their interests, languages and cultures.
George Schmidt taught 28 years in Chicago’s toughest schools until he was fired and blacklisted in 1999 for publishing the infamous CASE tests (Chicago Academic Standards Examinations) in Substance. He has been an English teacher and security coordinator, keeping gang violence out of schools. He served as an official of the Chicago Teachers Union. Currently, he is a delegate representing retired teachers in the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates and serves as co-chairman of the union’s School Finance and Taxation committee. He is a paid consultant for the current administration of the union. He was founder of Substitutes United for Better Schools (S.U.B.S.) in 1975 and has edited the Substance newspaper off and on for 37 years, www. Substancenews.net. Currently, his wife Sharon is editor of Substance and George is a reporter. He and Sharon, a public high school teacher, are leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union’s Testing Committee (which Sharon chairs). George Schmidt has spent his career defending good teachers.
Margaret-Mary Sulentic-Dowell was born and raised in Iowa. Although she grew up in the Midwest, she has fallen in love with the south, despite having lost all of her possessions and home in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She was hired by the East Baton Rouge Parish School System in 2002 to lead a literacy initiative as well as supervise over sixty (60) elementary sites. Her responsibility was to overhaul the district’s reading program and create a literacy model for the entire district. She provided professional development in literacy teaching, curriculum and instruction based on principles of child cognitive and linguistic development. The literacy program was balanced, holistic and comprehensive. The superintendent who recruited and hired her left in 2004 for a position in another state, and subsequently, the Board of Education filled the position with the former Deputy Superintendent of Finance for the district. The District moved toward a one-size-fits-all curriculum and when Margaret Mary objected, her job was threatened, and she faced termination charges. She continued her advocacy for best practice in the interests of children until she resigned her position in May 2006, when she accepted an assistant professorship in literacy education at Louisiana State University.
The Downer 5
Elizabeth Jaeger, Lina Prairie, Thomas Prather, Eduardo Martinez and Michael McDonald, dubbed the Downer 5 for the Elementary School in Northern California where they taught together. After years of attempting to negotiate modifications to curriculum which was inappropriate for their students, they ultimately wrote a letter to their colleagues offering further assistance and stating that they would no longer comply with several instructional mandates. Within months, all were involuntarily transferred – two of them in mid-year. Quoting Susan Ohanian, “These teachers are taking a strong stand to assert their professionalism, which means doing what’s right for kids.”
Ann Zimmerman is from Nashville, Tenn. She is a now-retired teacher who retired rather than teach the Language! middle school reading program. Her principal required that she use the program even though she found it to be inappropriate for high school students. She believed it to be insulting to her students and she knew that the "linguistic principles" on which it was based were just plain wrong.
Salvador Gabaldon was a barrio kid from East Los Angeles. Due to many fortuitous events he was able to attend college and become an English teacher. Sal and his family moved to Tucson in 1981 where he earned a Master’s Degree from LRC in 1998. Sal has worked at Pueblo and Rincon High Schools and has been a leader in the Tucson Association for Bilingual Education. He is a prolific writer of letters and editorials to the local newspapers in opposition to Proposition 203 and has assisted parents and teachers to organize a legal strategy to defend parental rights concerning children’s language development and use.
Susan Ohanian a longtime classroom teacher maintains a website at www.susanohanian.org which is required reading for staying current on the resistance movement to government-mandated standards and testing. Susan is author or co-author of 23 books, including One Size Fits Few and What Happened to Recess and Why are our Children Struggling in Kindergarten? Susan is a Senior Fellow at the Vermont Society for the Study of Education and a Fellow at the Education Policy Research Unit, Arizona State University. She is contributing editor at Vermont Commons: Voices of Independence and writes a monthly column in Substance, the education newspaper of the resistance. She was awarded the NCTE “George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language” in 2003 and the John Dewey Award for Extraordinary Contributions to the Education of Young People in America.
Joanne Yatvin was superintendent of a school district in Oregon when she was chosen to sit on the National Reading Panel. She was the only panel member with the integrity and courage to write a Minority report which alerted the public to the flaws in the Report. Joanne suffered both professional and financial loss due to her participation and visibility as a member of the Panel. Besides the Minority Report, Joanne has authored over 60 articles, 5 book chapters, and 3 books for teachers. She has also developed exemplary curricula and has held offices in national, state and local organizations. In 1985 Joanne was selected as Wisconsin's Elementary Principal of the Year, and in 1988 she received the Lois Gadd Nemec Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of Wisconsin School of Education.
Kathy Mason received the first "In Defense of Good Teaching" award because she "stood up" in the face of incredible pressure to submit to district mandates. Her principal ordered her to use a scripted reading program and she refused. She was banished from her classroom to a dark warehouse to inventory books and a substitute teacher took over her classroom. Children and parents complained, but the district could not see their way to reinstate her. She left the district, but has kept hope alive by reading and analyzing her student’s' lifebooks, her personal lifebooks, reading children’s literature, and listening to tapes of poets. These sources of inspiration got her through the awful days in the warehouse and continue to sustain her as she continues her life's work.
The Department of Teaching, Language and Sociocultural Studies (formerly Language, Reading and Culture and Teaching and Teacher Education) in the College of Education at the University of Arizona seeks nominations for an award to be given in honor of Kenneth S. Goodman. Dr. Goodman is recognized internationally as an advocate for teachers, political action and holistic education.
The award was established to honor professionals at any level who have "stood up" in an extraordinary way and who have set an example of well grounded, humanistic, holistic education.
Please review the following criteria and procedures. You are welcome to self-nominate or to nominate an educator whom you believe deserves recognition.
The award winner will be invited to attend a reception in his/her honor and to speak at a departmental Annual Conference often held in the Spring.
The criteria for the award include:
A professional educator at any level who has "stood up" in an extraordinary way and who sets an example of well-grounded, humanistic, holistic education.
An educator who has experienced economic or social consequences as a result of "standing up."
Preferably an educator connected to literacy education.
Procure the approval of the nominee since she/he may have to release materials from personal files to supply supporting information.
Send a letter of nomination (or self nomination) and the following documentation:
curriculum vitae/résumé and 3 names of references (include phone numbers, email and addresses).
Attach supporting evidence such as newspaper clippings, letters and memos, articles or position papers.
Send documentation to the committee chair at the address listed below. The nomination deadline for the 2014 award is December 15, 2013.
Professor Patricia L. Anders
College of Education
University of Arizona
1430 East Second Street
Tucson, AZ 85721
The Kenneth S. Goodman “In Defense of Good Teaching Award” is solely sponsored by contributions.
Donations are accepted year round in any amount.
Please make checks payable to:
University of Arizona Foundation
Professor Patricia L. Anders
University of Arizona
College of Education, Room 512
Language,Reading & Culture
P.O. Box 210069
Tucson, AZ 85721
Please contact Yvonne Gonzalez-Lewis if you have questions, 520-626-9387 or e-mail Professor Patricia L. Anders at
Previous award winners: