Teaching as if Students Matter

A Guide to Creating Classrooms Based on Relationships and Engaged Learning

By Jaye Zola & John Zola

Subjects: Education, Education - Textbook, Educational Administration
Hardcover : 9781438496672, 240 pages, January 2024
Paperback : 9781438496689, 240 pages, January 2024

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Table of contents

Preface: Why We Wrote This Book
Introduction: The Core Ideas of This Book

1. It All Begins with Relationships

2. Managing the Classroom with Relationships

3. Planning for Engaged and Authentic Learning

4. Teaching with Discussion

5. Assessment and Grading for Student Success

6. Relationship with Families, the Profession, and Yourself


A teacher education book that emphasizes the importance of relationships, cultural responsiveness, and engaged learning for all students’ academic and personal success.


Teaching as if Students Matter supports the goal of new teachers to create engaging classrooms where students want to learn. It provides concrete and specific methods for building relationships with all students, managing their behaviors in positive ways, and planning for engaged and authentic instruction. Throughout, the book emphasizes the critical role of culturally responsive teachers in creating inclusive curriculum and meaningful relationships to help all students learn and succeed. This book provides specific advice on how to build a classroom culture where discussion can flourish, as well as ideas for working with colleagues, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. As one reviewer wrote "after reading this book, I really […] believe I can do this!"

Jaye Zola is a retired teacher from the Boulder Valley School District and a former instructor at the University of Colorado-Boulder School of Education. John Zola is a retired teacher from the Boulder Valley School District and was Director of School and University Partnerships at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.


"An important, inspirational [text]… [that] propels us toward exciting, student-focused ways to teach and learn. It is … filled with innovative but attainable ideas along with roadmaps to authentic, relevant teaching …" — Linda Molner Kelley, Emeritus Assistant Dean/Director of Teacher Education and Partnerships, School of Education, University of Colorado Boulder

"There aren't a lot of books like this that strike a balance between being more of an applied practice workshop manual and a text that could be used in a college classroom. The numerous vignettes and mini case studies are very relatable. It's a fresh take on old problems." — Raquel J. Schmidt, Chairperson, Exceptional Education Department, Buffalo State University, State University of New York

"Teaching as if Students Matters is an extraordinary book that powerfully makes the case for why teachers matter. John and Jaye Zola are experienced professional educators who describe what teachers need to do if they really want to make a difference—and they should—because students do matter most of all. This book lays out very clear principles and specific examples of what truly masterful teaching looks like in practice. It’s a must read for pre-service and practicing teachers, school administrators, teacher educators, and anyone who is thinking of a career as a teacher. In a time when there is so much negativity about schooling and teaching, this beautifully written book teaches us what teaching can and should be." — Diana Hess, Dean and Professor, School of Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison

"Jaye and John Zola are teachers’ teachers. Consider their smart, practical, experience-based advice, and your teaching, too, can soar." — Walter Parker, author of Education for Liberal Democracy: Using Classroom Discussion to Build Knowledge and Voice, and Professor Emeritus of Social Studies Education at the University of Washington