How to Be a Great Teacher

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” -- William Arthur Ward

You’d have to ask SIL LEAD literacy consultant Diana Weber’s former and current students and writers to know for sure where she falls on that spectrum. But anyone who speaks with her for long is likely to suspect that she was and is a great teacher.

Diana Weber exudes a passion for life in general, and literacy in particular.

When she was growing in a small upstate New York town, her father and older sister were passionate travelers—always up for a trip or an adventure. Diana, however, preferred to stay home with her nose in a book. She went to a public high school with a graduating class of just forty-nine students and for all she knew, her life would be one of hearth and home and books-books-books.

Diana attended an in-state college for English literature and education and began her professional career as a junior high language arts teacher. But instead of sticking to what she knew, she went to Oklahoma for training with SIL. There she met her husband, and what seemed to be just a few short years they were living in the mountains of Peru, South America with their two children.

There in the developing south, she saw people who suffered because they had not been able to learn either through their own language, or the national language. The communities where she worked needed help to achieve the education that came easily to her, growing up in rural New York. She also saw that being able to read and respond to written texts was essential to having equality and equity in life. Diana became an advocate and developer of community-based bilingual education and worked together with local offices of the Peruvian Department of Education.

Diana continued to pursue her own education as well, completing a master’s degree in Education at the University at Pittsburgh in 1990, and then a PhD in Reading Education at Syracuse University, which she finished in 2003. For forty-eight years, Diana was actively involved with SIL, developing her skills as a coordinator in literacy and development in the Americas.

After forty-eight years, many teachers would be happy to set down the whiteboard marker.

This does not seem to have occurred to Diana Weber, who started with SIL LEAD in 2014.

“There was a need for additional consultants for a project in Uganda and I was very interested in going,” she says. “I never planned to work in Africa, but I saw it as a marvelous opportunity. And I really enjoyed working with SIL LEAD. They did such a great job of preparing the way and getting together the team that was needed. The infrastructure was a real boon… I was able to use the skills I had developed over the years and focus on facilitating the teams of writers. That was true when I worked with SIL LEAD again in 2015 and 2017. And I’m excited about the daunting task I have ahead of me this time.”

Diana laughs as she details the challenges of her upcoming trip to Ghana. She is clearly a woman who loves her work, and the writers with whom she works.

Diana Weber in Ghana 2017 small.jpg

“Let me just say how much I’ve appreciated the writers we’ve worked with in Uganda and Ghana,” she says. “They are so passionate and proud of their cultures. They work so hard to develop the best materials possible. Truly a consultant’s delight.”

Diana’s enthusiasm is absolutely palpable when she speaks about these writers.

While she bemoans the shortage of qualified consultants in the face of such desperate, global need, it is clear that Diana is well qualified to make a difference. Her years in Peru taught her to listen, to observe, to walk and live in other cultures… “and appreciate them as well,” she is quick to add.

“Listening and learning from them—as well as having the courage to share what we were learning from each other.  We practiced positive and helpful feedback in ways that were greatly appreciated. Over the years I learned to be flexible—to take stresses as opportunities.” In every workshop there are opportunities to put those words to the test, and to see what new opportunities await the teams of writers, consultants, and organizations.

William Arthur Ward may have been right about great teachers inspiring, but his quote does little to explain how. Even a short conversation with Diana Weber will make that clear: a great teacher enjoys what she does, loves the students she serves, and has fun in the process.