What’s in my desk drawer: Aaron Carman-Smith takes out his most valuable advice


Meghan Krein

Aaron Carman-Smith is ASU faculty and the  iTeachAZ Coordinator for the ASU Bilingual Education/English as a Second Language (BLE/ESL) program, housed at both the Issac School District and the Roosevelt School District. He has 15 years of experience teaching second language learners and site-based coaching. Aaron chatted with us about the importance of administrative support for teachers, why school districts want MLFTC graduates and how he helped shape a student into a leader.

How do you advise teacher candidates on how to take over the classroom and make it their own?

I always advise Teacher Candidates to make sure their classroom is truly a community, with plenty of positive behavioral supports. In order to learn, children need to feel free to express their feelings and thoughts in the classroom — it’s up to the teacher to provide that environment.

What are three essential qualities a teacher must have in order to be successful?

A successful teacher must be a true professional practitioner, meaning he must always be willing to communicate with colleagues and administration effectively, be willing to learn new things through professional development and be willing to change with the times. It really helps to have regular feedback and a mentor, especially those first couple of years.

Secondly, a teacher has to have a really good classroom management system. If he can't control the classroom, most likely not much instruction is happening and the students won't have the opportunity to learn.

Thirdly, teachers must have an innate love for what they do. This is a necessity because students have the uncanny ability to read a teacher. They know if their teacher isn’t into it and doesn’t want to be there.

Why do school districts seek out graduates of Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College?

Because they know they will receive quality educators with staying power. MLFTC graduates will already have working knowledge of how to implement culturally responsive pedagogy into the curriculum, use data to make instructional decisions and be able to implement a plethora of effective classroom management strategies. They also have a year of sustained practice with using an evidenced based TAP rubric to deliver instruction.

What has been the most challenging situation you faced during your career as a teacher and how did you overcome it?

The most challenging situation I faced in my career was the lack of administrative support I felt I wasn’t getting early on. I made an appointment with my administrator and let him know I was there to do my best, but needed his support to be an effective teacher. He was appreciative that I met with and talked through it — and also that I received his feedback. From then on, I was supported and learned a lot from my administrator.

Has a student affected your life in a profound way? How so?

One student comes to mind. She continues to communicate to me how she has become a better teacher and a leader on her campus based on the skills, strategies and resources she learned under my instruction in the iTeachAZ program. Our talks affirm that I am effective at my practice because my heart is in it and I want what's best for the students, regardless of the time and effort it takes. Knowing that I helped her continue to be passionate and effective in her practice makes me proud to be in my position at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

If you were talking to a group of current teachers and administrators in your district, how would you describe to them the teacher candidates coming through our programs? What can they expect from our graduates?

Teacher Candidates coming from our program will have the knowledge and the the skillset of a first-year teacher due to the length and rigor of the Clinical Residency. They will also have an understanding of the importance of implementing parental involvement, and most of all will have an extremely high level of professionalism with all stakeholders in a school environment.

What’s really in your desk drawer?

Post-its, binder clips, staples and markers — I think. I’m not at my desk much.

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