The Kenneth S. Goodman "In Defense of Good Teaching" Award

Kenneth S. Goodman

This award was established to honor professional educators who have stood up to laws, policies, and practices in an extraordinary way and have set an example of well-grounded, humanistic, holistic education.

The Kenneth S. Goodman “In Defense of Good Teaching Award” is solely sponsored by contributions.

Donations are accepted year-round in any amount.

Please make checks payable to:
University of Arizona Foundation

Mail to:
Dr. David Yaden
University of Arizona
College of Education, Room 512
Department of Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural Studies
P.O. Box 210069
Tucson, AZ 85721

If you have any questions, please contact the TLS front desk phone at 520-621-1311 or email Dr. David Yaden.

Previous Award Winners

Steve Singer, the 2020 winner of the In Defense of Good Teaching award, is a 7th grade language arts teacher at Steel Valley Middle School in Munhall, PA. When the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania tried to pass a voter ID law, Steve knew it would affect the parents of his students, so he conducted a successful campaign to have this law repealed. When Governor Corbett cut almost $1 billion from the K-12 education budget, Steve took a leadership role fighting it. Steve writes an education blog addressing topics such as education, politics, and social justice. Steve’s advocacy puts him at risk both professionally and personally. People angry with his crusade against charter schools and standardized testing have called and written his school district demanding he be fired. Most of all, Steve is committed to his students. He is particularly good at helping kids learn how to express themselves in writing, so high school students often return to his middle school class for help writing high school essays.

Dr. Stephen Krashen is professor emeritus at the University of Southern California. He is a linguist, an educational researcher focusing on the fields of bilingual education and literacy, and a political activist.

Within the field of second language acquisition, Dr. Krashen has asserted that:

  • Language learners require neither extensive use of grammatical rules nor tedious drill
  • Language acquisition requires that learners interact meaningfully in the target language; focus should be on the messages they are conveying and understanding, rather than the form of their utterances
  • The best methods are therefore those that offer fully comprehensible linguistic input in low-stress situations

As education policy in Krashen’s home state of California became increasingly hostile to bilingual education, he responded with research critical of the new policies and with dozens of letters to newspaper editors. During the 1998 campaign to enact an anti-bilingual education law in California, known as Proposition 227, Krashen also communicated via public forums and media talk shows.

In the realm of literacy, Dr. Krashen strongly advocates for free reading and against an over-emphasis on phonics instruction.  He was inducted into the International Literacy Association’s Reading Hall of Fame in 2005.

Dr. Richard Meyer is Regents’ Professor of Literacy and Language Arts at the University of New Mexico.  Professor Meyer developed a deep understanding about working with children and families during 20 years of classroom teaching.  Equipped with the knowledge gained as a teacher, and fueled by the curiosity that so strongly characterizes his inquiry stance, he pursued a Ph.D degree at the University of Arizona.  During this time, he honed his skills as a qualitative researcher and teacher educator.

Beginning at the turn of the century, national political initiatives—No Child Left Behind, Reading First, the Common Core State Standards, and the Every Student Succeeds Act—constrained literacy education.  Rick has assumed a leadership role in the fight against these policies.  Numerous journal articles and the 2001 book Phonics Exposed:  Understanding and Resisting Systematic, Direct, Intense Phonics Instruction provided a road map for teachers to critique federal government mandates for reading education materials and instruction.  Other publications, including Writing Spaces in Hard Times:  Official Portraits and Unofficial Counterportraits (2010), educate his audience about issues of power, class, and privilege.

Perhaps most directly connected to the In Defense of Good Teaching Award, Professor Meyer has achieved local, national, and international prominence as an activist and advocate for social justice.  In the summers of 2011 and 2016, he organized and led Save Our Schools rallies, marches, and conferences in Washington D.C.  These events brought together scholars and activists from all walks of life:  civil rights workers, parent and family groups, classroom teachers, school and district administrators, and educational researchers. 

Adell Cothorne was working as a principal in the Montgomery County public school district in Maryland when tapped to join the reform movement under Michelle Rhee in the Washington D.C. schools.  She became principal of the Noyes Educational Campus.  Under the previous principal, test scores had nearly doubled in math and reading in just two years. As the new principal, Adell quickly saw the discrepancy between the scores being reported and the poor quality of instruction taking place.  Her concerns were realized when she walked in on teachers and administrators erasing answers on the test. When she contacted her supervisors, they failed to take action.
For Adell, the financial instability caused by this event lasted over five years.  Out of fear of the ramification of the lawsuit she had initiated, she voluntarily left her position with the school system in July 2011, temporarily leaving the field of education.  Soon, she wanted to go back into K-12 public education and in December 2012 began applying for leadership positions in neighboring, high need districts but received rejection after rejection.  Adell realized that to continue to positively impact schools, teachers, and students she had to turn to work within higher education, specifically training and developing teachers and pre-service educators.  She is now a visiting professor at Loyola University of Maryland.

In his letter of nomination for Peggy Robertson, Ian Altman writes: “For as long as Peggy has worked with students and teachers, she has been a tireless and compassionate advocate for both.”  Peggy has been a literacy coach and literacy interventionist at Jewell Elementary School in Aurora, Colorado.  In this role, she has developed inquiry processes for students to pursue more self-directed learning.  In addition, she has provided professional development for teachers including dialogue about reflective practices.  Were this not enough, Peggy created the United Opt Out organization and, along with colleagues, built it into a national movement that has had demonstrable and newsworthy effects, leading to massive standardized test refusals in New York and many other states.  In 2012, Peggy helped to lead a protest in Washington D.C. called “Occupy the DOE,” which called out politicians of both major parties for their reckless and uninformed support for policies that harm children.  This advocacy work places Peggy at imminent risk of loss of job and livelihood, as her district’s administrators are no fans of her out-of-school activities.  Her tireless commitment to children, parents, and teachers makes her well-deserving of this award.

Throughout her teaching career, Caryl Crowell has advocated for what is best for kids and families.  She puts knowledge and beliefs into practice to withstand pressure from those who try to control teachers’ professional decision making.  She articulates her positions to administrators (one described her as a wild-eyed radical) when she is convinced that directives are nonproductive and harmful to students, families, and colleagues. She has explained why mandates are inappropriate and successfully reached compromises permitting alternative experiences for students and teachers.  She is currently Magnet School Coordinator at a Pre-K, grades 1 – 5 school in Tucson Unified with responsibilities that include facilitating curriculum and professional development for project-based learning and systems thinking within a social justice framework.  She has leadership roles in professional organizations locally and nationally, works with in-service and pre-service teachers and through publications and presentations advocates for the cultural and linguistic diversity of all students to learn in safe environments. Parents and teaching colleagues are articulate about her passion, dedication, and knowledge.

Matt Hicks (Cedar Shoals High School) and Ian Altman (Clarke Central High School) in Athens, Georgia teach literature and composition in general and advanced placement courses, weaving concerns for human rights issues throughout their curriculum. They are tireless advocates for their undocumented immigrant students. They received the award jointly for their collaborations with each other and their students. As teachers in Title I schools, they dedicate their professional lives advocating for their students, supporting them in advocating for themselves and finding their own voices. Their activism does not end when school lets out. They help students attend and participate in rallies and hearings on immigration bills, prepare speeches and present at conferences, and write as “undocumented and unafraid” immigrants. They support their students through legal, financial, and political hardships by helping them apply to colleges that will accept them (Georgia bans undocumented students from its top 5 universities). Ian and Matt have presented at rallies and human rights festivals, testified on immigration and education panels, addressed the Georgia House of Representatives and the Georgia State Board of Regents, and published in a variety of venues. They regularly provide information for preservice and inservice teachers. In all this, they are defenders of good teaching and of the rights of all students.

Bess Altwerger, a Professor of Graduate Reading at Towson University in Maryland,  is an exceptional teacher who engages her students and pushes their thinking. Most of all, she is a  defender of good teachers. Her professional life is devoted to the political context of teaching.  Her research takes place in classroom settings to critique the impact of reading materials on learning and her writing focuses on developing critical literacy, theory and practice to revive joyful learning. In order to raise professionals’ consciousness, she has organized political conference days at the Whole Language Umbrella on the politics of literacy, whole language, and high stakes testing. Her life’s work involves educators in acting collectively to impact the lives of student’s with justice and optimism. She promoted Demands for an Education Rights Movement and a possible Million Teacher March and with friends like Rick Meyer, organized the national Save Our Schools March and Rally. With unbelievable effort, they planned and organized a massive undertaking which continues to this day with an SOS committee in each state. 

Curtis Acosta has been a language arts and English teacher at Tucson High in the Tucson Unified School District since 1995. He has a BA degree in Humanities from Willamette University in Oregon and his MA in LRC at the University of Arizona in 2008 where he is presently working on his doctorate. He played a central role in creating the largest Mexican American/Raza Studies program in the U.S. centered on student empowerment, anti-racist, multicultural curriculum with a social justice emphasis. He is committed to his students, dedicated to his discipline, and driven to excellence. He has developed courses in Chicana/o, social justice, and resistance literature. Many of the students enrolled in his classes were abandoned by the educational system as too difficult to educate; yet they have excelled in this program.In the past several years, he and his colleagues have been singled out by the State Superintendent of Education by promoting a law passed by the legislature that targeted TUSD’s Mexican American Studies program as promoting ethnic resentment and advocating the overthrow of the United States. His reading lists and teaching have been scrutinized by state-appointed auditors. His district was threatened with budget reductions. As a result, the program was disbanded in 2012 and a suit is still pending. Curtis Acosta exemplifies what it means to teach in difficult times.

Paula McPheeters has been teaching, mostly in early childhood in the Tucson Unified School District for over twenty years with an MA from the University of Arizona. She is well known for her action-oriented curriculum that makes visible the power of human rights. Her essential question is, “How will the work I do advance justice in my school, community and society?” She is a highly successful emphasizing the vision of Reggio Emilia with its focus on authentic learning. Through her deep knowledge, her young learners become fully capable of engaging in their own inquiry and problem-solving.

With her students and their parents, she established gardens at Ochoa Community Magnet School growing healthy foods and building chicken coops for themselves and others with limited food access. She helps children study the role of borders -- borders that are opened to learn about others and ways to overcome borders that separate people that become barriers to children’s well being. She explores the limitations of traditional classrooms and encourages their discovery of the roles children play in their own learning at teachers’ conferences highlighting the power of children’s learning when schools incorporate their interests, languages and cultures.  

Priscilla Shannon Gutierrez is Coordinator of Outreach to Public Schools at the New Mexico School for the Deaf providing a range of professional development services and assistance for school districts that have students with hearing loss. Her expertise includes language acquisition and literacy development of linguistically diverse students. Prior to her position in New Mexico, she was director of an ASL-English bilingual charter school in Colorado, contributed to the states’ guidelines for deaf education and served as a literacy coach. In California, she was a bilingual mentor teacher for linguistically diverse students. She has taught graduate levels courses as an adjunct faculty member, has published articles about deaf education and presents at state and national conferences. From her earliest years in education, she has been an advocate for children informing teachers and parents about the rights of deaf and hearing children from diverse backgrounds. She helped to fight and win the campaign against Colorado's Amendment 31, which would have ended most of the state's bilingual programs.

George Schmidt taught 28 years in Chicago’s toughest schools until he was fired and blacklisted in 1999 for publishing the infamous CASE tests (Chicago Academic Standards Examinations) in Substance. He has been an English teacher and security coordinator, keeping gang violence out of schools. He served as an official of the Chicago Teachers Union. Currently, he is a delegate representing retired teachers in the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates and serves as co-chairman of the union’s School Finance and Taxation committee. He is a paid consultant for the current administration of the union. He was founder of Substitutes United for Better Schools (S.U.B.S.) in 1975 and has edited the Substance newspaper off and on for 37 years, www. Currently, his wife Sharon is editor of Substance and George is a reporter. He and Sharon, a public high school teacher, are leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union’s Testing Committee (which Sharon chairs). George Schmidt has spent his career defending good teachers.

Margaret-Mary Sulentic-Dowell was born and raised in Iowa. Although she grew up in the Midwest, she has fallen in love with the south, despite having lost all of her possessions and home in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She was hired by the East Baton Rouge Parish School System in 2002 to lead a literacy initiative as well as supervise over sixty (60) elementary sites. Her responsibility was to overhaul the district’s reading program and create a literacy model for the entire district. She provided professional development in literacy teaching, curriculum and instruction based on principles of child cognitive and linguistic development. The literacy program was balanced, holistic and comprehensive. The superintendent who recruited and hired her left in 2004 for a position in another state, and subsequently, the Board of Education filled the position with the former Deputy Superintendent of Finance for the district. The District moved toward a one-size-fits-all curriculum and when Margaret Mary objected, her job was threatened, and she faced termination charges. She continued her advocacy for best practice in the interests of children until she resigned her position in May 2006, when she accepted an assistant professorship in literacy education at Louisiana State University.

Elizabeth Jaeger, Lina Prairie, Thomas Prather, Eduardo Martinez and Michael McDonald, dubbed the Downer 5 for the Elementary School in Northern California where they taught together. After years of attempting to negotiate modifications to curriculum which was inappropriate for their students, they ultimately wrote a letter to their colleagues offering further assistance and stating that they would no longer comply with several instructional mandates. Within months, all were involuntarily transferred – two of them in mid-year. Quoting Susan Ohanian, “These teachers are taking a strong stand to assert their professionalism, which means doing what’s right for kids.

Ann Zimmerman is from Nashville, Tenn. She is a now-retired teacher who retired rather than teach the Language! middle school reading program. Her principal required that she use the program even though she found it to be inappropriate for high school students. She believed it to be insulting to her students and she knew that the "linguistic principles" on which it was based were just plain wrong.

Salvador Gabaldon was a barrio kid from East Los Angeles. Due to many fortuitous events he was able to attend college and become an English teacher. Sal and his family moved to Tucson in 1981 where he earned a Master’s Degree from LRC in 1998. Sal has worked at Pueblo and Rincon High Schools and has been a leader in the Tucson Association for Bilingual Education. He is a prolific writer of letters and editorials to the local newspapers in opposition to Proposition 203 and has assisted parents and teachers to organize a legal strategy to defend parental rights concerning children’s language development and use.

Susan Ohanian a longtime classroom teacher maintains a website which is required reading for staying current on the resistance movement to government-mandated standards and testing. Susan is author or co-author of 23 books, including One Size Fits Few and What Happened to Recess and Why are our Children Struggling in Kindergarten? Susan is a Senior Fellow at the Vermont Society for the Study of Education and a Fellow at the Education Policy Research Unit, Arizona State University. She is contributing editor at Vermont Commons: Voices of Independence and writes a monthly column in Substance, the education newspaper of the resistance. She was awarded the NCTE “George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language” in 2003 and the John Dewey Award for Extraordinary Contributions to the Education of Young People in America.

Joanne Yatvin was superintendent of a school district in Oregon when she was chosen to sit on the National Reading Panel. She was the only panel member with the integrity and courage to write a Minority report which alerted the public to the flaws in the Report. Joanne suffered both professional and financial loss due to her participation and visibility as a member of the Panel. Besides the Minority Report, Joanne has authored over 60 articles, 5 book chapters, and 3 books for teachers. She has also developed exemplary curricula and has held offices in national, state and local organizations. In 1985 Joanne was selected as Wisconsin's Elementary Principal of the Year, and in 1988 she received the Lois Gadd Nemec Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of Wisconsin School of Education.

Kathy Mason received the first "In Defense of Good Teaching" award because she "stood up" in the face of incredible pressure to submit to district mandates. Her principal ordered her to use a scripted reading program and she refused. She was banished from her classroom to a dark warehouse to inventory books and a substitute teacher took over her classroom. Children and parents complained, but the district could not see their way to reinstate her. She left the district but has kept hope alive by reading and analyzing her student’s' lifebooks, her personal lifebooks, reading children’s literature, and listening to tapes of poets. These sources of inspiration got her through the awful days in the warehouse and continue to sustain her as she continues her life's work.