Stephanie Tyler

Teacher spices up lessons with cook­ing analo­gies

The Covington News - - Crime & courts -

Stephanie Tyler, a fourth grade math and read­ing teacher at Oak Hill Ele­men­tary School, knows how to mix to­gether a heap of class­room struc­ture with a pinch of no- non­sense dis­ci­pline, com­bine them with a dol­lop of ed­u­ca­tional games for her stu­dents and end up with a pleas­ing re­sult.

Tyler, a busi­ness- like teacher with a con­ta­gious laugh, of­ten sits be­hind a ta­ble cloth dec­o­rated teacher desk dili­gently do­ing pa­per­work while her stu­dents tackle lessons she has taught through analo­gies from her cook­ing hobby. One could hear a pin drop upon en­ter­ing the class­room be­cause her stu­dents have learned hard work comes be­fore the learn­ing games Tyler so gen­er­ously spoons out.

Her room is dec­o­rated in white and red check­ers, the type that might be present on a vinyl pic­nic ta­ble or on a grand­mother’s apron.

In the hall­way, be­side her class­room door, a class ros­ter reads, “ Recipe For A Great Class.” Lam­i­nated chefs in tall white hats dec­o­rate her door to the left of a huge sign dis­play­ing the words, “ Cook­ing up a great school year.” Eye- catch­ing soup la­dles, tongs, pot hold­ers and other cook­ing uten­sils hang from her ceil­ing by in­vis­i­ble thread prompt­ing class­room vis­i­tors to look more closely at the sur­round­ing dé­cor.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing an ad­mi­ra­tion for fa­mous culi­nary ex­pert Rachel Ray, Tyler al­lows her life­long per­sonal love of cook­ing to spill over into the class­room be­cause she said the hobby con­tains use­ful syn­onyms which are en­cour­ag­ing in the learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

For ex­am­ple, Tyler strives to make her stu­dents feel im­por­tant by as­sign­ing weekly ti­tles to each child such as “ Sous chef” ( teacher’s as­sis­tant), bus­boy and waiter. Ac­cord­ing to her, the stu­dents thrive on feel­ing a part of the learn­ing en­v­i­ron- ment and feel­ing as if they each have an im­por­tant role in the class­room.

“ In a kitchen, every­one is im­por­tant,” Tyler said. “ It’s the same way in my class­room.”

Tyler, who has taught ev­ery ele­men­tary grade ex­cept kinder­garten and third grade, said her in­no­va­tive and creative think­ing helps her gain stu­dents’ re­spect and at­ten­tion which is im­por­tant be­cause fourth grade is a cru­cial time in the kids’ ed­u­ca­tional and per­sonal de­vel­op­ment. The up­per ele­men­tary grades vig­or­ously pre­pare stu­dents for re­spon­si­bil­ity they will need to pos­sess in mid­dle school. Self dis­ci­pline can make or break a stu­dent’s suc­cess in the mid­dle and high school years, she said.

“ In essence, this is the year we start try­ing re­ally hard to grow them up and to pre­pare them for those up­per grades,” Tyler ex­plained. “ Mid­dle school is hard; there­fore we re­ally have to get their at­ten­tion in the fourth and fifth grades in or­der to pre­pare them.”

Ac­cord­ing to Tyler, fourth grade in­volves an in­ten­sive fo­cus on math and read­ing skills. Read­ing classes place em­pha­sis on com­pre­hen­sion, vo­cab­u­lary, non­fic­tion read­ing and re­search skills. Math classes in­clude in­struc­tion in ba­sic long divi­sion as well as more com­pli­cated mul­ti­pli­ca­tion. Math classes also ex­plore ge­om­e­try and sim­ple al­ge­bra.

It’s not all hard work for stu­dents in Tyler’s classes, how­ever. The eight- year teach­ing vet­eran uti­lizes a wide as­sort­ment of both tra­di­tional and unique learn­ing games to help her stu­dents grasp tough con­cepts.

She also makes a point to show up to any event her stu­dents in­vite her to out­side school — such as foot­ball and base­ball games, birth­day par­ties, etc. Tyler said she be­lieves in try­ing to con­nect with her stu­dents be­cause when she makes that ef­fort, her stu­dents work harder in the class­room.

“ The stu­dents need to know ed­u­ca­tors re­ally care about them,” she said. “ When we do things to con­nect with them like show in­ter­est in their sport­ing events, they are more likely to do what we need them to do in the class­room.”

Tyler, who has been teach­ing at Oak Hill Ele­men­tary for the past four years, is one of five teach­ers in New­ton County to re­ceive recog­ni­tion from the state for meet­ing the stan­dards of the Ge­or­gia Mas­ter Teach­ers Pro­gram this year. The pro­gram strives to rec­og­nize teach­ers pos­sess­ing po­ten­tial to be­come leaders and/ or men­tors to other teach­ers in their schools.

Af­ter a te­dious ap­pli­ca­tion process last school year, Tyler re­ceived no­tice by mail over the sum­mer that she had been se­lected as a re­cip­i­ent of the honor. She said it will be printed on her teach­ing cer­tifi­cate that she was rec­og­nized by the state for her out­stand­ing achieve­ment which in­volved such feats as lead­ing her classes in pre­vi­ous years to re­ceive very ac­cept­able stan­dard­ized test­ing scores.

“ I was so very happy when I re­ceived no­ti­fi­ca­tion I’d been se­lected, she said about be­ing rec­og­nized as a Ge­or­gia Mas­ter Teacher. “ It’s so nice to be rec­og­nized for all the hard work we do.”

Cream of the crop:

Birth­place: Kansas Fam­ily: Mar­ried to Jar­rod; one son Ed­u­ca­tion: Shorter Col­lege, Walden Uni­ver­sity Fa­vorite books: “The Se­ries of Un­for­tu­nate Events” by Lemony Snicket, “Pride and Prej­u­dice” by Jane Austen Years teach­ing in New­ton: four Hob­bies: cook­ing, read­ing, singing

Car­rie Huenke/The Cov­ing­ton News

Stephanie Tyler, fourth grade math teacher at Oak Hill Ele­men­tary, has taught in New­ton County for four years.

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