A teacher’s job description doesn’t fit a set list of responsibilities, chronologically checked off and completed at the end of each day. In fact, the job description is ever-changing and unique to the day.
Good teachers take on a variety of roles including mentor, advocate, or even friend during difficult transitions and personal hardships. Good teachers stay late, reinventing lesson plans and tirelessly answering parent emails. Good teachers return each day, patience renewed and ready to tackle whatever comes their way. Great teachers do it all.
Sixth-grade social studies teacher Sean McMullen didn’t always want to be a teacher. He didn’t feel personally called towards childhood education. McMullen enjoyed history, majored in it during college, but was unsure of where life would take him after graduation, and more importantly, what he would do for a job.
At the time, his mother was a fourth-grade teacher and suggested that Sean come help at her school’s community after-school program. Sean realized he enjoyed working with children and went on to earn his teaching certificate through a master’s program.
Prior to teaching at Sunset Middle School, McMullen taught fifth grade for four years at Hygiene Elementary School. When a colleague told him about a newly open social students position at Sunset Middle School, he applied. Six years later and McMullen is a beloved fixture at Sunset Middle School.
Each year, The Education Foundation for the St. Vrain Valley accepts nominations for its ‘Teacher of the Year’ award. Parents, students, fellow teachers, and administrators are welcome to nominate any teacher who they believe goes above and beyond the job description and is outstanding in his or her field. McMullen was one of three teachers nominated from Sunset Middle School and was subsequently awarded “Teacher of the Year” for Sunset Middle School.
McMullen humbly acknowledged the honor, stating that any one of Sunset’s teachers could have won the award and he didn’t believe he was any more deserving than the rest. “It’s nice that somebody thinks I’m doing a good job.” McMullen said with a chuckle. His 11 and 12-year-old students are quick to acknowledge a good joke or YouTube reference, but less equipped to spot an inventive lesson plan or creative group project.
McMullen focuses on teaching his sixth-graders various aspects of social studies, including civics, geography, and current events. As a history major, his favorite lessons include early western civilizations, the transatlantic triangular trade, and Native American tribes. McMullen concedes that the best part of his job is watching his students overcome academic or social obstacles, take pride in their school work, and complete the transition into the sometimes chaotic and often emotional world of middle school.
At the beginning of the school year, McMullen starts each new class off with an icebreaker of sorts. He invites kids from one feeder school to interview classmates from a different feeder school. Kids share favorite hobbies, names of siblings, and future dream jobs. McMullen takes the time to learn a little something about each of his students and, throughout the year, checks up on aspiring soccer stars, beloved pet cats, and everything in between.
McMullen is inspired by each student who tries and cares — about themselves, about fellow classmates, and about their school work. Seeing his students grow and change before his eyes is “pretty cool,” he happily acknowledges. McMullen’s job is never boring and more often than not, the 48-minute class periods fly by, but he ends each day with hope for the future.