Science teacher connects with students in middle school classroom

CHICAGO -- November's Teacher of the Month honoree is a science teacher, but the fact that he's mastered the science of connecting with his students makes him stand out in his middle school classroom.

It was Israel Martinez who seized the opportunity to recognize Daniel Taff's teaching and his natural chemistry with the students at LaSalle II Magnet School on the city's near northwest side.

"He finds the right balance between work and play," Martinez, a student, said.

Taff roams the classroom with a purpose, making sure his students grasp the day's lesson.

"Just because I say it doesn’t mean they heard it or learned it correctly. So when they talk to each other, and they reinforce that concept, I can hear how they are using the vocabulary," Taff said.

It turns out Taff's students have a lot to say -- especially about him.

"I’m always surprised I come to work each day to be with them, to help them and have them help me," Taff said.

In honor of Taff's achievements, Saint Xavier University awarded him $1,000.

"Every time he walked up to a table to answer a question, the kids grinned because they just seem to like his presence," Peter Hilton, an associate professor at Saint Xavier University, said.

But for  Taff, it's the admiration of his students that's the greatest honor.

"I think of these kids as my own children, and they are just somebody I’d like to look out for," Taff said.

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