Pearls of Wisdom after Years of Teaching

You may have read Marty Roettgen’s article about creating a class of champions. Although now retired, this woman is a wealth of wisdom for how to improve your classroom. Check out her list of key advice she recommends after her years of teaching:

  • Create an A-Team: Because I spent so many years in the industry before I became a teacher, I decided that my class would function as a business. One of the key principles that helps businesses do well is rewarding top performers. In my class, we called that the “A-Team”. During part of my career, I worked at a school that was one of the lowest performing schools in the county. Many teachers had low expectations for their students, but I didn’t want to be one of those. I always allowed my top performers to work ahead. Any student that was doing well had the opportunity of joining the A-Team, which was the students working ahead of the minimum. Once one or two students had joined the A-Team, others wanted to join. The enthusiasm to learn and excel was contagious.
  • Establish a Class Goal: Just like in any business, each class had key goals and objectives. If the students achieved the goal, I would reward them with a bonus (donuts or cupcakes in class, for example). Creating a class goal also allowed me to have the different classes compete against each other. The number that had passed the certification was posted on the whiteboard in front of the class. I would challenge the classes to catch up to the other classes. Nothing wrong with a little healthy competition.
  • Use Positive Peer Pressure: Setting class goals also helped some of my lower performing students. Ultimately, the student that pushed the class into a bonus became a class hero. Usually the goal would be 28 or 29 students certified out of a class of 30. Making this the goal usually meant that one of the worst students became the star in the class, since they would be the ones to push the class into “bonus range”. This confidence booster for some made a huge difference going forward in the class. While I never published who had not earned a certification yet, the class had it pretty much figured out. The positive peer pressure helped many of the lower performing students step-up, so they could pass and not be the one that kept the class from earning their bonus.
  • Become a Facilitator: In my other article, I talked a lot about eliminating lectures as much as possible. Doing this meant that I really got to become a facilitator and had the time to help the struggling student and focus my time where it was really needed. Top performing students figured things out on their own and didn’t need me hovering over their shoulder, telling them what to do. In addition, the better students helped answer their classmates’ questions. This freed my time to spend with students who needed extra attention. It did make for some interesting classroom evaluations though. Get Certified: I believe that every teacher must get certified. Print your certificate and post it in the classroom. How can you ask students to do something that you have not done? For teachers wanting their students to become champions, take the certification test until you earn a perfect score and post your score. Aside from the confidence that this will give to you, you will also earn respect from your students. Although I’m enjoying retirement, I really miss enabling students to be successful. I have had a few students contact me years after I taught them. They tell me how they either remembered a skill or remembered how to find out how to do a skill they needed for work. I truly believe that if you believe in your students, and treat them like you believe, they will surprise you.

However, you MUST know the skills yourself backward and forward for this to work. I took the certifications until I had earned a 1000 and posted it on the wall behind my desk. You need the confidence in yourself in order to give the confidence to your students.

Marty Roettgen

Former Green Hope High School Teacher

Cary, North Carolina

Learn from amazing teachers like Marty at the 2020 CERTIFIED Educator's Conference. Find out more at