Editor’s note: As part of our celebration of National Teacher Appreciation Week, we are highlighting a few outstanding educators from classrooms across the state. We thank all teachers for their dedicated work with Iowa’s students this past year.

Today’s Q&A session spotlight features Burlington Community School District teacher Thomas Buckman. Buckman has taught for 36 years and currently teaches several classes in career and technical education industrial arts at Burlington High School.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

Richard Zimmerman at McKinley Junior High/High School was my favorite teacher. He took the time to check for understanding with me back in 1975.

Why are you passionate about teaching? What things do you love about working with students?

I have enjoyed teaching for so long because students still have those learning epiphanies. I love the smiles on their faces when they learn and gain self-worth and self-esteem.

Students are often fearful of failure, and many are unsure of themselves. I have enjoyed extinguishing those feelings by teaching them they can learn and improve on their skills.

What do you think are the keys to a student’s success and how do you help foster that?

Student success is solely based on the student’s effort to keep attempting to learn. The key for any teacher is to keep presenting the concepts and material in as many ways as possible and checking for understanding until that epiphany happens. We don't need to entertain or be their friend. We just need to assist them in their learning.

Over the years, how have you grown as an educator?

My constant raising the bar as well as the complexity and expectations of my students have not only impressed the students, their parents and other teachers but also our business partners and future employers for the students.

If you told me that I would be teaching high school students how to program CNC machines when I started teaching, I would have doubted it. I have been learning each year myself to keep up with emerging new technologies and methods of machining. Teachers must be career-long learners.

What opportunities do you see in the next few years in education?

My hope is that all schools in Iowa and the country realize that more than 50 percent of our students are career and technical education (CTE) students, and the education mold needs to be reshaped to facilitate CTE student needs. I think CTE should be a major part of a high school’s program.

Subscribe to receive email updates from the Iowa Department of Education.