Top of the class
Shue-Medill instructor named Christina’s teacher of the year
Like any good teacher, Casey Montigney keeps on top of her sixth-grade students to make sure they get their writing assignments done on time.
And, in a unique twist, her students return the favor.
“When they’re writing, I’m writing,” Montigney said. “I tell them to keep me accountable. By the time I’m 30, I’ll finish my book.”
Montigney, 26, is in her fifth year teaching at ShueMedill Middle School. Last month, she was named Christina School District’s teacher of the year and will go on to compete to be the state’s top teacher in the fall.
A native of Freehold, N.J., Montigney always loved to read and write.
“I was the kid with a book up to my face all of the time,” she said. “My mom had to take them from me to eat dinner.”
She enrolled at the University of Delaware as an English major but after figuring out that finding a sustainable career with just an English degree could be difficult, she decided to try taking a few education classes.
“I realized I loved it,” she said, adding that her mother and aunt are also teachers.
She planned to teach high school but the only job she could find after college was a middle school position at Shue-Medill.
“I tried it out, and now I don’t think I’ll do anything else,” she said.
Montigney said she likes the enthusiasm and energy that middle school kids have.
“It’s fun teaching when they love coming to school this much,” she said. “Even the ones that don’t are still looking at you like, ‘Should I love it?’ I like grabbing those kids.”
She teaches several classes of English language arts, including students in the advanced-level Cambridge Program, and also runs a technology class she designed after obtaining a master’s degree in applied educational technology. The course teaches “digital citizenship,” including how to stay safe and act professionally on the internet.
“I said to my principal, ‘I think we really need this,” Montigney said. “Kids have been handed all this technology but don’t know how to use it and don’t know about their digital footprint.”
Her favorite subject to teach, however, is writing.
“Writing is the most important skill I can leave them with,” she said. “If you can communicate what you’re trying to say, it to- tally changes how you approach things.”
Montigney, who lives in Townsend with her husband, is mulling several ideas for her own book, possibly in the historical fiction genre.
Montigney’s dedication to the school extends beyond just her own classroom.
Three years ago, Montigney joined other ShueMedill teachers in participat- ing in a school improvement project sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation. The team brainstormed innovative ideas to solve problems at the school and tested them out in classrooms. Those that worked were rolled out to the entire school.
Montigney cited the success of a new policy to allow students to retake tests they performed poorly on the first time.
“It places value on learning, not ‘ did you get the grade on the day I wanted you to get the grade,’” she said.
Montigney also replaced the chairs in her classroom with yoga balls after reading research that suggested they help students focus by channeling excess energy into balancing on the balls.
In addition to her work on the school improvement project, Montigney has also served as an advisor to the yearbook, newspaper and drama clubs, participates in the school’s mentoring program, serves on the antibullying committee and is working on creating a support group for LGBT students.
She believes there’s always a new skill to learn or a new program to try out.
“I want to always be an educator who wants to grow,” she said. “If I ever get to the point where I don’t want to learn, I shouldn’t continue teaching.”
Casey Montigney, the Christina School District’s teacher of the year, talks to her sixth-grade class at Shue-Medill Middle School about writing memoirs.