Michael Hoops, or “Hoops” as the students call him, believes being a great teacher starts with caring and creating a connection with students.
The Stapleton resident and freshmen biology teacher at Eagle Crest High School was recently named a 2015 9News Teacher Who Cares for making an outstanding positive impact on students. He has taught for 18 years; the past five have been at Eagle Crest.
“Sometimes it’s all about the academics and the pressure with testing, all that stuff. I think sometimes the human side of students’ stories doesn’t get heard. They want that; they want to be heard. I hope I do that with my kiddos,” Hoops says.
At the beginning of every class he does a segment called Cares, Concerns and Celebrations for everyone in the class, including himself, to share what’s happening in their lives. Sometimes kids just briefly mention a sports game they won and then other times they open up about deeply emotional parts of their lives. “Just yesterday a student told the class about coming out to her foster parents and being scared to tell her real parents. This was in front of the whole class, and the whole class is listening. We got the opportunity to tell her it’s okay and we’re really proud of her. You wouldn’t believe some of the stories.”
Hoops has learned a lot about how to create connection with his students through his work at The Conflict Center, a Denver nonprofit that teaches how to avoid violence and effectively work through conflicts. Specifically, they teach communication skills, consequences, negotiation, anger management classes, conflict management, and assertiveness. Volunteers go to schools, workplaces, communities, and more. Hoops has volunteered with The Conflict Center for eight years and served as board president for three. What he practices at The Conflict Center directly transfers to his work as a teacher.
For example, rather than automatically suspending a student for acting out, Hoops teaches the student skills to resolve their issues. “Conflict is inevitable, but violence is not. We want them to understand what to do when there is conflict,” he says.
Through teaching and The Conflict Center, he has grown empathy for everything the students go through and understands they act the way they do for a reason. One of the greatest rewards is seeing his freshmen students grow older and then graduate. “I tell them, go and contribute.”