Drawing upon the lifelong learning skills her parents instilled in her, Barbara Duffer Cole molds her classroom environment so that students relate the curriculum to past and present experiences. She also maintains the classroom as a safe and nurturing environment.
“I believe teachers are the most important role models for setting an example for other students to follow,” Cole writes. “It is how teachers handle difficult situations in the classroom that teach our students respect, kindness and patience. These qualities are essential for the classroom and also for students to learn to be caring, productive citizens.”
As an artist, Cole brings out the students’ senses of self-expression. As a friend and mentor, she connects with each one. Tim Hallacy, Shawnee Heights Middle School principal, said Cole has a “deep, empathetic ability” to reach students across the spectrum, from English language learners to student council leaders. “Barb took over our Student Council when no one else wanted to and transformed it into a Student Leadership Academy,” Hallacy writes. “In doing so, she quadrupled the number of student participants, changed the focus from social activities to leadership development, and provided multiple opportunities for our students to get involved and give back to the community in which they live.”
A former student commends Cole for her hands-on methods in art classes. “In my opinion, that boosts their self-confidence knowing that they can understand the material, and I think it helps them learn in other places,” the student wrote. “The fact that you also make it fun is just an added bonus. What is also amazing is that you get along so well with your students.”
Cole earned a bachelor’s degree in art education from Washburn University. She also holds a master of arts in education from Baker University and an ESOL endorsement from Kansas State University. She began teaching in 1991.