MaryBeth Britton

Teacher of the Year - New Mexico


I am a powerful force in the lives of my students.

I have learned that helping a student develop personal and academic confidence can save that child’s life and insure his future. Lack of confidence is often the driving force behind disruptive behaviour, excessive absences, and apathy. I must do everything I can to help each student take the small daily steps that lead to increased confidence. This can start with greeting every child with a smile and a kind remark every day. Acknowledging even the smallest accomplishment in a student’s day can help him stand taller and give him courage to face the next obstacle in his day.


Tolerance is crucial in order to be a highly effective teacher.

I have learned that to do the best for each student, I must strive each day to see beyond our personality, culture, and age differences and find the best in each child. I have to take the time to learn about individual interests, ask questions, and encourage each child’s interests. I must learn about family cultures and traditions and remind myself that my job does not call for judgment of others. I can be gently intolerant of disruptive behaviour, but I must be absolutely tolerant of each child’s uniqueness, viewing each student as a gift I am given for the year and years to come.


Change can pose tremendous challenges and even threats, but no growth occurs in the absence of change.

Change can be threatening, but I have learned through personal experiences that only through change can I provide the best for my students. Self-reflection and honest evaluation are crucial elements of my classroom. My students must see proof that I make a habit of change. I must model my willingness to accept challenges, not hiding my feelings of doubt and insecurity, but sharing them with my students to help them as they work through their own learning experiences. Only then can I ask each student to initiate change in their own lives and guide them to increased learning.


Every student must understand the power of the word ‘no’.

Every child must learn the meaning of ‘no’ before the age of 3. Every parent knows how difficult that concept can be to teach, but the odds of successful learning diminish in geometric proportions as the child grows. A 3 year old struggling to accept that the world will not always rotate around or for him is much easier to teach than a 13 year old or a 30 year old. Self-discipline requires the understanding that others can deny us what we want - more importantly, that each of us is responsible for monitoring our own wants and saying ‘no’ to ourselves when appropriate.


There is no luck involved in great teaching.

There is hard work, research, and reflection. There are hours spent preparing lessons and materials, grading and evaluating student work, and creating the road map for the next steps. There are snippets of conversation where the teacher learns about her students; time spent searching for the most appropriate teaching strategies; hours spent reviewing student work looking for connections and broken strands of understanding. There is obstinate dedication and hope that keeps a great teacher moving forward against outside forces she cannot control. No student should ever depend on luck to find a great teacher, one who respects and protects the student and his efforts. A great teacher works hard to pass this message on to colleagues.

The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.


MaryBeth Britton is a third generation public school teacher. She began her teaching career in a 3-room rural school in New Mexico and has served the children of her home state her entire career. She holds a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education and Masters degrees in Reading and English. Her association with the inspiring teachers she met working on her Masters from the Bread Loaf School motivated her to work on National Board Certification, which she completed in 2004. She is a DeWitt Wallace Fellow, a State Department Project Harmony Exchange Teacher to Armenia, an AP Reader, and the 2012 New Mexico Teacher of the Year. A teacher leader at Pecos High School, Britton has helped bring positive changes and accomplishments to the students of the Pecos Independent School District.