John V. Bode
2014 Kansas Master Teacher
Data may drive every decision that John V. Bode makes in the classroom, but what his students and their parents see and remember is the personal attention Bode gives each student and the ways he makes lessons relevant.
“Like most teachers, Mr. Bode had us do reading groups,” wrote a former student, who said she didn’t like reading. “In Mr. Bode’s class though, the questions he gave us to think about while reading were really interesting, not just who is this character but questions that made us think and debate. I often found that I really got into reading because I was so interested in the questions Mr. Bode had thought up for us.”
For Bode, a third-grade teacher at New York Elementary School in Lawrence, inspiration comes from the foundation of the same standards he is asked to teach.
“The Common Core standards call for children to take a point of view, justify it with evidentiary support, respond to criticism and think critically about their position,” said Bode. “My philosophy: Teachers should apply this same process to our profession!”
Data was invaluable when working with students as a speech-language pathologist, a career Bode began in Denver after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kansas. After a stop in the Turner school district in Kansas City, Bode came to Lawrence schools in 1995.
“After a decade as a speech pathologist, it became clear that I needed to make a change,” Bode said. “While I loved my work, in my heart I knew I could do so much more. It was time to become a classroom teacher, helping all students, not only students with speech/language disabilities, excel.”
Bode earned his teacher certification in 2002 from Ottawa University in Kansas City and worked as a special education teacher before teaching third and fourth grades at New York Elementary in 2003.
In the classroom, Bode’s unique approach includes using music he’s composed to teach math concepts and using supplemental science activities to teach cooperative learning. At the same time, he encourages individual students’ interests, from Native American Hoop Dancing to drawing.
One parent recalled a parent-teacher conference at which Bode showed him his daughter’s desk covered in pencil drawings.
“I was ashamed, thinking that he was going to tell us to discipline her at home,” the parent wrote. “Instead, he praised her talents and said that he told my daughter she could keep that till the end of the semester, and then she needed to clean the desk, which she did.”
Outside the classroom, Bode uses his musical talent to perform benefit concerts, was a Stephen Minister at Trinity Lutheran Church, is a member of the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice and worked with Save Our Neighborhood Schools when budget cuts threatened New York Elementary.
“It meant so much to see that our child’s teacher was not just punching a time clock at the school but had put his heart and soul into the community,” wrote one parent. “He kept the debate out of the classroom, maintaining the stability and security of that space for his students.”