Countless scholars have explored the question of what makes a great teacher, yet teachers themselves have rarely been included in these discussions. Though there are no easy answers or formulas to what it means to be an accomplished teacher, it is curious that so few teachers have had the opportunity to weigh in on the issue. A major reason for the proposed Visions of Practice Series is to remedy this situation by placing experienced classroom teachers themselves at the center of the conversation.
Being an inspired teacher is as individual as each teacher. At the same time, while it is true that great teaching depends on individual identities, experiences, idiosyncrasies, teaching contexts, and the particular students one teaches, it depends most of all on vision, that is, on the fundamental purposes and aspirations that teachers bring to their chosen profession. This does not mean, however, that those purposes, aspirations, and even practices cannot be modeled and shared with others, in turn influencing the field at large. The purpose of the Visions of Practice Series is to provide readers with grounded exemplars of excellent teaching in various geographic and K–12 contexts. Because teachers are the most qualified people to write about their philosophy and practice, current and experienced classroom teachers, particularly in public schools, will be the authors of the series.
Sonia Nieto is professor emerita of language, literacy, and culture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A teacher at elementary and middle school levels for several years, and a teacher educator for over 30, she has written extensively on diversity and teacher education. Her books include Affirming Diversity, The Light in Their Eyes, and What Keeps Teachers Going?, and Finding Joy in Teaching Students of Diverse Backgrounds, as well as edited books Puerto Rican Students in U.S. Schools, Why We Teach Now, and Dear Paulo: Letters from Those Who Dare Teach. She has received many awards for her scholarly work, advocacy, teaching, and activism, including nine honorary doctorates.