Community's "Can Do" Attitude :Why I Love Teaching In Lakewood

Hello, I’m Sean McGuan. I’ve taught fourth or fifth grade in Lakewood City Schools (LCS) for 24 years. I am not a native of Lakewood but I am a native Clevelander and have lived in Lakewood for 25 years. I married my college sweetie from freshman year and we have two children at Lakewood High, a junior and a sophomore. With May being the month of Teacher Appreciation Week, I wanted to write this article to reflect and share my ideas about what continues to motivate and make me value being a Lakewood teacher.

Sometimes I think of my classroom as a bus stop where the 9-10 year olds get off, stay for awhile and then move on to the next stop. The life of a 10-year-old has changed during the last 24 years. “iPad? What’s an iPad” to “Mr. McGuan, can we code today?” However, a fifth grade student is still basically the same person in 2017, as they were in 1994. They want to be respected, challenged, have fun and be prepared for middle school, and knowing my colleagues, I can say we meet these student goals.

Fulfilling the needs of students is what motivates me each day of the school year, but even when I’m not teaching, I’m doing anything I can to strengthen the learning experiences of the students. For example, I have my eyes and ears open for information to support the fifth grade curriculum and search for new places to visit on field trips. This strategy led to all four fifth grade classrooms participating in a program entitled, “The Reasons for the Seasons” at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s planetarium. In addition to these personal practices, I’m supported by the professionalism of the Board of Education, Lakewood City Schools' staff, the desire parents have for their children to reach their dreams, and the “We can do this!” energy of this community. These four components make for an invaluable Lakewood teaching experience.

The commitment of Lakewood teachers and staff to the community has not wavered during my tenure in the district. As a freshman teacher, I admired the strength of the administration. They supported the staff by providing on-site professional development and up-to-date text and digital resources. These practices continue today. For instance, LCS offer teachers the chance to take classes taught by their peers. Teachers can explore curricular programs in greater depth, learn new strategies to incorporate technology into the classroom, or study timely topics such as understanding issues about race. Another example of forward-thinking commitment is the district moving from each school having a computer lab to having an almost one-to-one ratio of computers to students in nearly all buildings in the district.

Lakewood parents trust Lakewood teachers to lead their children to achieving their dreams because they’ve seen the results, whether in artistic, academic or extracurricular endeavors and know the Lakewood staff will never let a student down.

Parents know they can count on the school board, administrators, teachers and support staff of Lakewood to continue the legacy demonstrated by our predecessors of protecting and promoting the value of these programs by successfully leading the way for our students to achieve superior results. Lakewood bands and orchestras receive the highest marks at music contests. Lakewood artists win scholarships and national recognition for their work. Clubs such as Model U.N., or the Academic Challenge team receive high honors at their competitions.

Lakewood teachers find the spark within each student and build that spark to a successful academic or extracurricular blaze. The Board, administration and staff are relentless advocates for administering sound instructional and extracurricular practices to support all student populations. Before and after school programs of all types are created, such as Project MORE to support reading growth. Specialized internal programs, such as the Gifted and Talented and Advanced Placement programs support learners needing advanced educational opportunities. The middle school Mock Trial teams have taken high honors for years at the annual competition in Columbus. The athletic department, with our fine coaches, enables Lakewood athletes to reach the highest levels of competition, such as breaking high school records, and leading student-athletes that wish to compete collegiately to reach those dreams.

The final and most important example of what motivates me to teach in Lakewood is the tremendous and continuous community support the district receives even from families without students in the schools by passing levy and bond issues. Not a single active school building in the district is over 15 years old. The seven elementary schools have been either refurbished or rebuilt. And refurbished doesn’t mean a new coat of paint. Buildings such as Horace Mann and Emerson Elementary Schools were completely rebuilt from the inside-out. These results were because the Lakewood community, a la LeBron, supported not one, not two, but three bond issues. Nothing more can demonstrate how much Lakewood supports and values its schools than when families make a financial commitment to their schools. Thank you!

In closing, I trace my motivation and value of being a teacher to a day early in my career. There was an administrator by the name of Rick Wair, who was the assistant superintendent. He spent the majority of his career teaching and being an administrator in the Mansfield-Ashland area of Ohio, but then moved up for a chance to shine in our fair city. (He did.)

One day, while I was at new teacher orientation, Rick was welcoming and introducing the new teachers to the community. During his main presentation, Rick remarked that he learned quickly that there is a mystique to Lakewood City Schools and the community. Rick believed there was something about the schools and community that you can’t put your finger on, but you know it when you live it and see it. There is an esprit de corps feeling that says, “We can do this!” 

It’s that energy that has carried me through nearly a quarter century of being a Lakewood teacher.

Read More on Letters To The Editor
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 12:39 PM, 06.06.2017