“Perfect” look for classroom – Seacoast Online

Original Article:

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 3.58.12 PM
PORTSMOUTH — The centerpiece of Michael Anderson’s fifth-grade classroom at Dondero School is the wooden loft in the middle of the room, at the top of which students find seating cushions.

Below are two tanks where students tend to the lizardlike bearded dragon and pair of leopard geckos. There is ample open space, which is used regularly to do serious work, but one of Anderson’s main goals is for students to feel at home in school.

“A principal once told me that it didn’t look like a classroom. It just looks like a place where people come and do work. I said, ?Perfect!?” said Anderson, who was recently named as one of five finalists for Teacher of the Year in New Hampshire.

The top prize went to a teacher from Belmont, but Anderson said he was honored to be nominated. Modest about the accolade, Anderson complained somewhat about the publicity he has received since the nomination was announced.

“When you win an award like this, people focus a lot on what you’ve done, but we tend to lose sight of all the amazing things that other teachers are doing,” said Anderson, who has taught at Dondero for six years after working as a teacher in Connecticut.

“You could randomly choose any room in this school, walk in and see something cool.”

The layout of Anderson’s room, which he shares with students whom he taught last year, is the result of an intensive design process. He and his students knew they were going to have to move last year. Once informed of where their new classroom would be, they got right to work placing cutouts of furniture on a plan to envision the perfect setup.

“I did have them give suggestions of where things should go,” said Anderson, who had the final decision.

The nomination was not the first important accolade Anderson received this school year for excelling in his field. Last fall, he was recognized with a $25,000 prize as a winner of the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award. The award is given annually to two teachers from each state.

Anderson is a practitioner of Responsive Classroom, a complex set of teaching methods that aim to craft students? social ease in addition to their ability as learners.

Each student in Anderson’s classroom has made an entry to a “Hopes and Dreams” board, a set of individual academic and social accomplishments that students set as a goal for the term. The goals range from improving in public speaking to getting better at a particular school subject.

“The challenge of education is how to meet the individual needs of each student in the class,” Anderson said. “In a class of 16 kids, you have 16 different personalities and 16 different sets of learning styles.”

  • Mike Anderson
    Mike Anderson is an education consultant, award-winning teacher, and author of many books including What We Say and How We Say It MatterThe Well-Balanced Teacher, The First Six Weeks of School, The Research-Ready Classroom, and Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn. Learn more about Mike and his work or invite him to work with your school or district through his website: Connect with Mike on Twitter: @balancedteacher.

  • Latest Blog Posts


    Mike Anderson
    Leading Great Learning
    Durham, NH
    Phone: +1 413.658.7907

    Leading Great Learning

    Mike Anderson is an energetic, experienced, and highly sought-after educational consultant who helps facilitate great learning in schools all over the United States and beyond. He has over twenty years of experience as a teacher, consultant, presenter, and developer and has authored many books and articles about great teaching and learning.