Teacher: Learning comes first
That means students who fail a test the first time get a chance to review the materials and take a slightly different version of the test again. “It gives students hope, even if they fail the first time,” Esquerra said. “And it also makes them responsible to get more tutoring and do the reviews and take the test again. “They’re not done because they failed one test,” he added. “It’s not over.” In the past five years, state test scores for Algebra I and II and geometry at Whittier High have continued to improve, even as the numbers of students taking more upper-level math courses increase. The steady improvement among math students has even caught the attention of researchers from Cal State Fullerton and USC, who have visited Esquerra’s classroom often to analyze his teaching strategies. Other schools also have asked Esquerra and his colleagues to make presentations on their successful strategies in improving student achievement. “That’s pretty exciting and complimentary to our school, especially when we’re asked to present at other schools,” Esquerra said. But he says being named the district’s Teacher of the Year wouldn’t have happened without the collaboration and input he’s received over the years from his fellow math teachers. “I really consider it an award for the whole math department because it couldn’t have happened without everybody working together,” Esquerra said. “I was very surprised but very honored to have received it,” he added. “There are a lot of great teachers in this district.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3051160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WHITTIER – As a math teacher at Whittier High School, Dan Esquerra assisting students to learn the science of numbers isn’t the only thing atop his priority list. Giving students hope is just as important – even after they’ve blown a big test that is crucial to their semester grade, Esquerra says. “As teachers, we have to prioritize what’s most important to us – that students learn information right away, or that they just learn the information, period,” he said. “Invariably, it was more important that students learned the material,” said Esquerra, a Whittier native who graduated from Whittier High in 1980 and is chairman of the math department. Over the past five years, Esquerra’s focus on mastery has led to significant improvement in state test scores among Whittier High’s math students – and even started a trend in other academic departments at the school, said Principal Loring Davies. And that’s why Esquerra, 45, has been named 2007-08 Teacher of the Year for the Whittier Union High School District. “Dan has made a real difference here at Whittier High,” Davies said. “It was his energy, enthusiasm and leadership that guided our efforts to develop common assessments – first in the math department, then science, language arts and into the social sciences.” By collaborating with his colleagues and using the same tools to gauge student progress, Esquerra came up with an effective learning environment that includes a forgiving retest policy.