National Writing Project

Sonia Nieto Explores What Sustains Teachers

Date: April 2008

Summary: Sonia Nieto, a leading authority in bilingual and multicultural education, delivered the keynote address at NWP's 2008 Spring Meeting. She explored the question of what sustains teachers in challenging situations and discussed the implications for professional development.


The following excerpts are from Sonia Nieto's speech.

Nieto on high stakes testing

In all my time with these teachers and many other teachers, I've never heard anyone say that high stakes testing, teacher tests, pre-packed curriculums, or best practices are the things that keep them going. Through our obsession with these things, we seem to have lost the meaning of the essence of our teaching.

Nieto on what it means to define teaching as intellectual work

Learning doesn't stop when you get your degree and you walk into the classroom. It really starts there and we need to keep learning all the time.... That's why I think education is the best profession.

Nieto on the changes that need to happen

I think we need to rethink professional development and change the culture of teacher preparation. We need to shift it from a focus on what and how to questions of why.... This means teaching prospective teachers and practicing teachers more about the students who they teach. They need to know who their students are, and often they don't know about them. We need to be serious about recruiting a more diverse teaching force, because the more diverse the teaching force, the more voices get heard in these conversations.

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For more, see highlights of the 2008 NWP Spring Meeting.

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