Below is the speech delivered by Robert Schneider of the NYSASCD, on October 19, 2007 during the award ceremony at the The Melleville Marriott in Huntington, New York. (Please note that this speech has been edited and formatted for this web page).
New York State ASCD's Educator of the Year Award goes traditionally to a public school educator. This year we are honoring Richard Strong who, for most of his career, worked privately as a teacher of teachers, educational reformer, and researcher. The award to Richard is presented for a lifetime of achievement and rests broadly on two foundations. First and foremost, Richard has had an enormous impact on teaching and learning on Long Island, in New York State, across the country, and around the world. Educators from several dozen school districts on Long Island and in New York State have benefited from Richard's sustained work within their districts.
The second reason for honoring Richard is that he has been instrumental in supporting the New York State ASCD and the Long Island ASCD as vital leadership organizations in our state. Richard has been a keynote speaker and presenter at more Long Island ASCD and New York State ASCD conferences than any other person. Five past presidents of New York State ASCD, all Long Islanders, join me in making this presentation today–Marcia Knoll and Dr. Mary Ellen Freeley, both of whom served as Presidents of ASCD International; Dr. John Glynn, former principal of Central High School in Valley Stream, New York; John Gangemi, former Superintendent of Nassau County BOCES; Marilyn Zaretsky, former Superintendent of South Huntington; as well as Tony Mello, Executive Director of New York State ASCD. We would like to thank the New York State ASCD Executive Board and Selection Committee for selecting Richard for this honor.
Richard Strong is the Vice President of the educational consulting company Silver Strong and Associates and the publishing company Thoughtful Education Press. A former elementary and secondary teacher, he is an expert in instruction, curriculum, and assessment. He has served as a trainer and consultant for ASCD, hundreds of school districts, state departments of education, and nations. Among his areas of focus are learning styles, teaching strategies, reading, writing, thinking, democratic teaching practices, and meaningful assessment. He is the author of several books, including Reading for Academic Success: Powerful Strategies for Advanced, Average, and Struggling Readers, Grades 7–12; Reading for Academic Success, Grades 2–6: Differentiated Strategies for Struggling, Average, and Advanced Readers; and Teaching What Matters Most, as well as the author of many articles.
If you have ever attended a Richard Strong professional development program, you know how he injects life and creativity into effective classroom practices. Participants laugh and giggle, our eyes sometimes fill with tears, we share, we reflect and rethink, and most of all we rededicate ourselves to the serious fun of education. Inspired by his optimism and real–life solutions to large and small education problems, we return to our jobs invigorated and ready to resume our work with renewed energy.
Consultants often arrive in districts with packaged programs. Not Richard. Whether the agenda is classroom instruction or system–wide reform, Richard's approach is to carefully craft professional development to the circumstances of a school or district. He is able to do this because he is so smart and creative. His understanding of teaching and learning, the content areas, and the general universe of knowledge is incredibly deep and broad. This is a guy, who for his own pleasure, reads French philosophy while the rest of us sleep. Richard, the philosopher and theorist, is also the ultimate pragmatist. He is as adept and comfortable demonstrating examples of practical teaching strategies to kindergarten teachers as he is to high–school Advanced Placement teachers and college professors. His newest book being published by ASCD is The Strategic Teacher: Selecting the Right Research–Based Approach for Every Lesson.
In an article in Educational Leadership, he presents the case that, like haiku, educational reform needs to be simple and deep. The article describes how schools in New York and New Jersey use the concepts of simplicity and depth in their school improvement efforts. This kind, gentle man is a master at helping us see things that are right in front of us, the things which should be obvious but aren't always. A case in point is made in the title of another of his Educational Leadership articles: "Making Students as Important as Standards."
If we're really lucky, in our lifetimes as educators we come upon a person who not only teaches us, but inspires us and helps us remember why we chose to be teachers in the first place. For many of us, Richard is that person. If there were ever any questions about his missionary zeal, they should be cast aside. Diagnosed with throat cancer, he recently had his larynx removed and now he speaks through a device called a TEP (tracheoesophageal puncture). With boundless energy and determination, he continues his research, planning, and writing with Silver Strong & Associates and Thoughtful Education Press. His latest book on teaching strategies is an outgrowth of 35 years of research and experience. For all that he has done and all that he continues to do, please join us in honoring our friend and colleague–Richard Strong–as New York State ASCD Educator of the Year.
About the Author
Bob Schneider started his career in public education as a teacher at the Jackie Robinson Intermediate School in Brooklyn, New York in 1968. As an educator and administrator, Bob has worked throughout the state of New York: Bob has developed and supervised curriculum and staff development programs for Eastern Suffolk County BOCES, has served as President of both the Long Island ASCD and the New York State ASCD, and was Principal of Pearson Middle School and High School in Sag Harbor, New York. Now retired, Bob is an active member of the New York State ASCD and still works with schools in Sag Harbor to coordinate their service learning programs.