Kings Junior High teacher receives award

Q&A with Steve France, who teaches math.

Contact this contributing writer at lisa.knodel@gmail.com.

Longtime educator Steve France recently was recognized as a state leader in teaching.

The Kings Junior High School math teacher received the Ohio Middle Level Association 2016 Regional Award for Excellence in Teaching, which is presented for outstanding “commitment and contributions to middle level education.” He was recognized for his ability to connect with students on all levels and his student-centered approach.

France — who has taught for 25 years with 18 of those years at Kings — also was recognized with the Warren County Area Progress Council for Excellence in Teaching Award in 2003 and 2012.

He graduated from Sandy Valley High School in Magnolia, Ohio, and earned his bachelor’s degree from Wilmington College and master’s from Xavier University. He and his wife, Joy, have a daughter Eva, a senior in high school.

The Today’s Pulse found out more about France.

Q: How does it feel to be honored with this award?

A: I am humbled to win this award, because we have so many dedicated and caring teachers here at KJH. I feel this award is representative of our entire school community.

Q: Why did you become a teacher?

A: I had a few very influential teachers that inspired me to want to help others. I also love the puzzling, interesting side of math that made me think it would be a fun subject to teach to middle school aged students.

Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching?

A: In this job, there is never a dull moment. You never know what a 12-year-old is going to say or do. It is so enjoyable to me to watch students develop mathematically and socially over the school year and as they go on to high school and beyond.

Q: What is the biggest challenge facing teachers today?

A: Lack of time and lack of trust. In my years as a teacher, I have experienced a shift away from quality planning time to create interesting, fun lessons, which also means less time to provide growth-evoking feedback to my students. These things either have to happen on personal time outside the school day, or sadly, they don't happen at all.

So much of this, in my opinion, is due to the de-professionalism of our craft: educators and schools are held so much more accountable by so many mandates and policies that it becomes very frustrating and difficult to innovate.

Q: What is your teaching philosophy?

A: "Hide the vegetables in the meatloaf." To create engaging lessons that both interest and challenge students requires something of interest to the student. If I can relate what we are learning in some small way to students' personal lives, the math knowledge has a chance to develop.

Also, it is imperative to take a true, personal interest in each student and dialogue in between classes. These interpersonal relationships make a huge difference in motivating students to do their best.

Q: What is a favorite memory from your teaching career?

A: Once I took a group of seventh and eighth grade students to GE Engineering Division for an engineer-for-a-day program through Cincinnati MATHCOUNTS. A few years later, one of the students from that group was graduating from Rose-Hulman University in mechanical engineering, and he wrote to tell me how that field trip was the day he decided he wanted to be an engineer! Small daily decisions by teachers can have big impact on each student's future.

Q: What are some of your hobbies?

A: Our family raises free-range chicken a couple of times per year to sell as a great locally sourced food. I have also been a singer with the May Festival Chorus, the choral arm of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, since 2003.

Q: What is something people may not know about you?

A: During college, I had a job as a video assistant for the Cincinnati Bengals, even though I was then, and continue to be now, an avid Cleveland Browns fan.