Featured Educator: Meet 61-year old Bill Heaning, first-year teacher in Syracuse City Schools
“I love the hardest ones the most.”
Those are the words of Bill Heaning, a teacher that happens to be 61-years young in the Syracuse City School District. Bill was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York in the 70’s. His mother passed away when he was 12-years old from Lou Gehrig’s disease, and his father was an alcoholic. Bill believes that despite his challenges, “I made it, and these kids will make it too.”
I had the pleasure of coaching Mr. Heaning a few weeks ago in his classroom. After seeing him get 100% of his students engaged at multiple points during his lesson, I assumed he was an experienced educator with 30+ years of practicing the art and science of teaching. When I asked how many years he had been in education, and he replied “One. This is my first year,” I was simultaneously shocked and in awe.
After spending decades working in factories, Bill decided to become a classroom teacher and he is truly a rock star in the making! I learned so much by watching Mr. Heaning navigate through his classroom, deliver instruction and engage with his students. Below are three major take-aways that I got from watching Mr. Heaning teach:
1. He acknowledges the strengths of every student.
• Mr. Heaning builds momentum by strategically narrating ALL kids at least once during a lesson
• Shifting from narrating desired behaviors to academic language
• Narrating “hands in the air” as a form of think-time to increase one volunteer to 15.
2. He believes that deep relationships are the key to success.
• He checks in with those students whose behavior he finds the most challenging early, frequently and has individual plans as needed.
• He believes genuinely that all of his kids will make it and he verbalizes this to his students.
• He smiles, laughs, hugs, dances with (former Disco King), and most importantly – loves his students.
3. He embraces a Growth Mindset.
• Bill wants to be coached and pushed, despite having high achievement levels.
• He seeks feedback from his co-teacher and team leader on a regular basis.
• Bill is humble and believes all of his students can grow on a daily basis.
One week before school started this year, Bill was introduced to the No-Nonsense Nurturer model. He implements the 4 steps of the model on a daily basis, and his results speak volumes. Bill is deeply respected by his colleagues, his administration, his students and their families.
Heavy respect to this first year teacher (at 61-years of age) who is changing lives of the youth in the city of Syracuse on a daily basis.
by William Sprankles, Associate
William is an innovator with a remarkable journey in urban education. He has a dynamic background in which he experienced the strategic change process as teacher, coach, and administrator.
To learn more about No-Nonsense Nurturer, click here!