Joseph Dziedzic

Our table was right in front of the podium at the (U.S Congressman) Jared Polis Awards Banquet last night. Fifteen of the most effective teachers in Colorado were honored, among them a member of our Denver Public Schools TCI (Teaching with Comprehensible Input) team, Joseph Dziedzic.
Paul Kirschling was there and also DPS World Languages Coordinator Diana Noona, along with a few of Joseph’s friends and family, and Joe’s principal at George Washington High School, Loan Maas. There was great food, a nice short speech from Jared, and a good feeling of celebration all around, as it should be at this time of year.
Diana presented Joseph and it was awesome to hear her take the opportunity to explain in detail what Joseph actaully does in his classroom, to wit – speak in the target language 95% of the time. Her speech cut through a lot of the old pre-Krashen ideas about what it meant to teach languages.
Diana made it clear that the award went to a teacher who does not speak English in the classroom, who does not base his instruction on the book, and who builds community by putting knowing his kids as people first, before anything. Diana made that clear.
At one point, Congressman Polis was nodding in agreement. Then Joey, in his typically unassuming way, thanked everyone, and another blow was struck for the idea that teachers can actually speak in the target language 95% of the time in their classrooms.
I am glad that what we are doing in Denver Public Schools reflects a kind of fierce solidarity amongh our TCI group to make Krashen’s ideas work in the classroom. Sometimes, especially now at the end of the year, my stomach is filled with a kind of weariness from the battles of the year.
But when I looked at my colleagues Diana and Joseph and Paul (those of you in LA will remember Paul from his presentation on using paintings and the visual arts to make CI come alive), I forget the trials of the year and I am filled with a pride of community that I had never experienced in my long career – when I felt so alone – until now.
Congratulations Joey. Dr. Krashen’s brilliant work over all those years, without teachers like you walking the walk and bringing them to life, doesn’t mean much, really. You actually make Krashen’s  ideas work in changing the lives of kids so that they feel that they, indeed, are actually good at learning languages.



1 thought on “Joseph Dziedzic”

  1. Thanks Ben for your glowing comments about my recognition of Joey and why it was so important to acknowledge the reasons he was so deserving of this award. I only wish that I could have written a nomination for all of the superstars in our TCI group. Joey didn’t say this but I know that he was so humble in his acceptance of the award because he feels he is one of a group who together have achieved so much in terms of the best practices of language acquisition. All of our group benefitted from the amazing training at last July’s iFLT Conference and have worked so hard to practice what they learned. Our group meetings and learning labs have been an essential part of the on-going training. Joey is an exceptional teacher for many reasons but most importantly because he always establishes a connection with his students that is truly remarkable. With today’s adolescents, if you don’t connect, you don’t engage and students check out. They don’t really “show up”. Inner-city kids decide not to go to class and an F in the class is just one more F. These students have no motivation to achieve or learn…they just put in “seat time” in order to graduate. Of course there are those who want a good grade….and they will do whatever is required for the grade. (These typically are NOT students of poverty.) But the skill that Joey and many other DPS teachers excel in is the ability to establish a personal connection with students, most especially students of poverty. Kids go to class because it is rewarding to attend and they feel success. They are learning without pain…it is fun..and the teacher actually cares about their interests. The job of teaching these students is super challenging and Joey knows how to do it. Really well. So well that the number of students taking Spanish at George Washington HS has increased 3 fold since 2007 and the number of students enrolled in AP went from 13 to 48 in 3 years. I congratulate you Joey and all the teachers of the DPS TCI group. And to you Ben Slavic for your mentorship of all of us…including me. We love you!!! What a gift to have you as a teacher in the Denver Public Schools!

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