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Olathe Teacher Finalist for National Teacher of the Year

Photos by Steve Bell
Students Alex Cole, Alex Parkinson and Anish Patel are rooting for their teacher, Josh Anderson in the Teacher of the Year finals.

By Steve Bell

Olathe, KS –
For the fourth time in the past six years, Olathe Northwest speech drama and forensics teacher Joshua Anderson is one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year.

Teaching, according to Josh Anderson, has its own unique set of challenges. For example, just feel the energy of the clamor in hallways and classrooms during break time. And it's a safe bet few if the conversations are about the next class. Anderson says he has a trademark method of moving the students' attention into the classroom and bringing the curriculum to life.

At the beginning of the hour, in order to get the class focused on whatever you want them to be focused on, you ask them all a question. You give them about a minute to think about it, so the question can be anything from "what is your dream car" to "if you had the world's attention for fifteen seconds, what message would you give?" And they think about it, and then they are required as you call roll to stand and delver their answer.

Anderson in classroom:
All right, think it's time to get started! Heeyyoooh! Roll call question today is this! I want to know, Man, oh, man, do I want to know What is the most beautiful place in America?

It's also a social opportunity for them to learn some graces. If they interrupt each other they have to walk across the classroom, shake the hand of the person they interrupted and ask for forgiveness. And it's a way for them to stand and share something about themselves.

The most beautiful place would have to be some place around Denver, Colorado so I could go snowboarding and be around nature.

I think it would be Orlando, Florida because I don't like the cold, and it's a

The most beautiful place in the world would have to be New York, City, cause when I'm stressed out I just like to go out and have fun and I like the concert action.

The roll call question is popular, but it's only one of dozens of things students like about Josh Anderson. Students Alex Parkinson, Anish Patel and Alex Cole had this to say.

He brings a sense of humor into the classroom, but being funny won't make you teacher of the year. They're not seeking a comic. He also instills a sense of integrity and character.

He teaches you that the most important thing in life is just to live life with moral character and not just to succeed, but it's about a whole 'nother thing.

There are several times I came to him with personal stuff, just to talk to him and get his input. And he's always more kind-of like a friend. He is definitely a mentor, and someone I have admired and . Just a great guy!

Alex, Alex and Anish all also mention that Anderson sets high standards but is non-critical, encourages creativity and is very knowledgeable in many subject areas. Despite all the praise, Josh Anderson denies that he is some kind of "super-teacher."

Sometimes awards breed other awards. I don't think that I'm any more talented than many of my colleagues. I don't think that I'm any more hard working or more terrific than they are. But I know that when you have the ability to speak on behalf of education that people will rally around that.

Anderson is outspoken of the future of education. He believes America needs more consistency in educational materials and standards nationwide and a high-school system that gets the basics down in two years and devotes the final two years for preparation for college or a vocation.
He says it's hard for teachers to make a difference in districts with limited resources. But he knows teachers can make a difference because one did in his life.

I entered high school with very low self esteem and very low confidence and had a teacher by the name of Sally Shipley, and she was the forensics and speech coach at Shawnee Mission West High School. And she taught me to see myself in an entirely new way. And from there I just blossomed like a sinner converted by the Hallelujah Chorus. My life was completely different.

Anderson was so inspired he became a teacher and tries to be a good one. Does he think good teachers can solve all educational problems?

We set the expectation bar very high, and then we give them thousands of opportunities well maybe not thousands, but. Sometimes it feels that way. You know, ultimately humans are influenced by their own motives. And sometimes kids want to take their lives in another direction. And as much as we want to pull back, ultimately we need to give them the independence to be who at that point they need to be, Sometimes it's very painful to watch. Sometimes it's extremely painful.

Josh Anderson's students hope his caring attitude, sense of humor, knowledge and energy will carry him to the top teaching honor in the country: National Teacher of the Year. A selection panel will announce this year's winner in April.

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