Educator Book Reviews

Educator Review: Teachers at Their Best

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Teachers At Their Best
Written by Gina Valle
Published by Quattro Books
Category: Professional Development

Also available in French

Reviewed by Dixie Pallett-Firth,
Teacher-Librarian, York Region District School Board

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In her study, Gina Valle, an educator and founder of Diversity Matters—an organization that addresses the personal and the national challenges that come with living in a multicultural country—argues that teachers who create pluralistic classrooms, foster environments where our diverse students become inclusive citizens. Teachers At Their Best is more than a collection of feel-good stories or simply a human interest book about teachers of new Canadians. It is based on two years of research and collecting data from eight Montreal teachers who represent different racial, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds. Valle summarizes their journey with today’s diverse learners who treat students as equals, but not the same. The book also explores the connections between life inside and outside of the classroom. Teachers at Their Best is a recommended read, providing examples of authentic opportunities where teachers who are faced with cultural challenges, made inspirational differences in the lives of their students. Examples described are within reach of today’s educators.

Evidence shared by Valle includes the struggles and successes of creating classroom environments where students build skills and attitudes that are inclusive and promote empathy. Suggestions are made as to how to remove obstacles that prevent students from performing at their best. Valle takes us on the journey by sharing teachers’ real experiences in the classroom. We see the steps taken along the way as they immerse themselves in rich and diverse school climates and how they adapt over time, changing their teaching practice and classroom environments to meet student needs. Valle believes that today’s teachers must be more flexible, adaptable, open-minded, collaborative, and culturally aware of their students’ backgrounds. To teach effectively, teachers must also develop skills in listening, patience, conflict resolution, and collaboration in their pluralistic classrooms.

The data from the teachers’ journals, responses to interviews, and observations from classroom visits combined with Valle’s insight and analysis, strengthen the belief that these teachers are on to something quite valuable. By offering realistic examples of situations to which we can relate, Valle provides encouragement to today’s educators. One would agree that efforts to build a pluralistic classroom will result in inclusive Canadian citizens from diverse backgrounds. There is no right way to teach our diverse learners, but making connections and providing experiences is a great place to start!

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