GIRARD — Local teachers and administrators were reminded why they went into education

during an opening inservice.

On Tuesday, an annual teacher inservice for Southeast Kansas educators featured nationally-known motivational speaker Todd Whitaker who discussed, “What Great Teachers do Differently.”

From praising students to calling parents, Whitaker discussed ways to have a successful school year.

Whitaker is a professor of educational leadership at the University of Missouri and professor emeritus at Indiana State University. He is also an author who has written over 50 books — including his national best seller, “What Great Teachers Do Differently.”

“I wanted to make a difference, and I know teachers make a difference every day,” Whitaker said. “I wanted to to give them support.”

The Northeast, Southeast, Frontenac, Girard and Louisburg school districts pooled together resources to bring the guest speaker to the event.

Girard Superintendent of Schools Blaise Bauer applauded Northeast Superintendent Greg Gorman’s efforts for “taking on the task” of bringing Whitaker to southeast Kansas, he said.

Before teaching at the universities, Whitaker was a math teacher, coach and principal at middle school, junior high and high school levels.

“I got into education because it matters,” he said in front of the audience full of educators.

Whitaker’s philosophy on teaching, he said, is the same philosophy he has in life.

“Raise the praise and minimize the criticisms,” he said.

Whitaker gave examples to the educators on how to praise more and criticize less.

At his school, he noticed a teacher who was struggling to keep her class in a line in the hallway.

The teacher had focused on criticizing the students on their efforts to stand in a line.  Another teacher did the opposite and praised her students with compliments such as, “good job at leading the others.”

The latter had more success, he said.

To run the point home — especially for teachers who may not believe in the praising method — Whitaker said even adults want to be praised. People usually say “looking good” after someone loses weight, he said sparking laughter throughout the auditorium.

Whitaker used such humor to help the teachers understand the importance of his topics.

Compliments, however, must be authentic, clean, specific and immediate, he said.

“I’ve told my wife that she’s pretty and then asked her a favor,” Whitaker said, “She didn’t like that complement.

“It must be authentic because you can’t build a relationship and use it at the same time.”

Whitaker covered the topics in a manner which reminded the teachers why they entered the field.

“We brought him in to bring back what is important to us,” Girard High School Principal Todd Ferguson said.

The event prepares teachers before they step into the new school year, Ferguson said.
“He brings a really common sense approach to education,” he said. “He’s motivational and down to earth yet applicable for what we do with the kids.”

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.