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!