Spotlight on High School Teacher, Doctoral Student, and Cooperating Teacher Chris Holland

Liz Hoelzle | May 16, 2012

Chris Holland is finishing up his fifth year of teaching at Brooklyn Technical High School, where he currently teaches 9th grade Global History and Geography and 12th grade AP US Government and Politics. As if that weren’t enough, he has also just completed his second year as a doctoral student in the Social Studies program at TC. Holland is interested in looking at how standardized exams, especially the Regents exams in Global History and Geography, influence Social Studies teachers’ pedagogy. He is also interested in how teachers try to instill democratic values and critical literacy in their lessons.

In addition to his work as both a teacher and a student, Holland has also taken on the role of a cooperating teacher at Teachers College for the past two years. “I think it is important for educators to remain connected with institutions of higher education and help mold the craft of our newer teachers as effective and reflective practitioners.  I hope that through example, deep discussion, and critical reflection, I can help newer teachers develop their own philosophy of education.”

Holland’s work as a cooperating teacher allows him to put into practice something he feels is a crucial component in the teaching profession. “I value cooperation and collaboration among teachers, especially from a multitude of school settings.  Cooperation and collaboration make teaching stronger for teachers in every stage of their careers.”

Holland has had the chance to experience both rewards and challenges in his role as a cooperating teacher. “The benefits lie in the cooperation and collaborative experiences I share with my student teachers.  The challenges lie in my ability to prepare student teachers for the dynamic qualities of every student.  I think that this is something we can all see when we enter the classroom.  I feel that one semester is far too short of a time to develop adequate skills to prepare lessons that meet the challenge of diversity in the classroom.  So in many respects, I think the challenges of a dynamic classroom extend beyond the reach of a student teaching experience.  Although, with the proper support, I can assist pre-service teachers in beginning to understand the value of this diversity in the classroom.”

Like any good teacher, Holland has a clear sense of what he hopes his student teachers will learn from their experience in his classroom. “I hope they see that every student deserves a good teacher and that most teachers want to be great at their craft.  I am privileged to work at a school with amazing students and a faculty that works hard to ensure that each kid has the opportunity to succeed in school and in life.  I also hope that my student teachers understand the value of being critical of their teaching abilities.  Just as it is important to find what works in the classroom, it is equally important to determine why it works and seek new ways to improve their craft.  Finally, I hope that pre-service teachers see that students that are not homogenous or predictable. Rather, they always change.  I stressed to my student teachers that the human element of the teaching and learning process must never be overlooked and should be openly embraced in the classroom.  It is what makes daily classroom events enjoyable, engaging, and very challenging.”