Crink­ley named CH Teacher of Year

CHMS math teacher rec­og­nized for mak­ing a dif­fer­ence

The Progress-Index - - FRONT PAGE - By Kelsey Re­ichen­berg Staff Writer

COLO­NIAL HEIGHTS — Carolyn Crink­ley, a six­th­grade math­e­mat­ics teacher at Colo­nial Heights Mid­dle School, was sur­prised in her class­room on Thursday af­ter­noon as she was named the divi­sion’s Teacher of the Year for the 2018-19 school year.

Crink­ley’s su­pe­ri­ors, in­clud­ing Su­per­in­ten­dent Dr. Joseph Cox Jr., As­sis­tant

Su­per­in­ten­dent Haidee Napier, School Board Chair Mike Yates, CHMS Prin­ci­pal Bill Hortz and In­struc­tional Spe­cial­ist Joseph Dou­glas, showed up to sur­prise Crink­ley in front of her six­th­grade math class with the an­nounce­ment and a bou­quet of flow­ers.

Rec­og­nized for her abil­ity to make kids think on a deeper level, Crink­ley orig­i­nally taught sev­en­th­grade math at CHMS for 12 years be­fore leav­ing when she had a baby. She left with the in­ten­tion of only be­ing out of school for a year, which turned into 13.

“I thought I was through teach­ing,” Crink­ley said. “And then a teacher who was in this room who I taught with in what I call ‘my first life­time’ came to see me the week be­fore school started, and she had just been di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer. She showed up at the front door and went, ‘I need you to come out of re­tire­ment.’ I didn’t even think I was in re­tire­ment ... I just hadn’t gone back to school. And she goes, ‘I need you to come teach for me be­cause they’ll just put any­body in my room, and I’ll be com­ing back af­ter Thanks­giv­ing.’ And I thought okay, I haven’t taught for 13 years, it’s sixth-grade math, I [used to teach] sev­enth-grade math. But I can do this.'”

Crink­ley agreed to come back, think­ing she would be able to han­dle it since it was just seven weeks.

“I tell peo­ple this story and they think I’m crazy, but the very first day back, I came in, I closed the door, and it was like I had never left,” she said. “It was like some­body had flipped the teacher switch back on and I was like okay, I’m back at do­ing it again.”

“So this is my twelfth year back, so that makes year 24 with a lit­tle

va­ca­tion in be­tween,” she added. “But I love it. I love what I do.”

It wasn’t long af­ter she re­turned to teach­ing that Crink­ley faced what she con­sid­ered an ob­sta­cle, but what her su­pe­ri­ors con­sider her time of ex­po­nen­tial growth.

“We had al­ways been a seven-pe­riod day, but we were chang­ing to a block sched­ule,” Crink­ley said. “When we went to a block sched­ule, I told this gen­tle­man,” she said, look­ing at Prin­ci­pal Hortz, “This is prob­a­bly go­ing to be my last year teach­ing, be­cause there’s no way I can teach math for 90 min­utes.”

Dur­ing the sum­mer of that year, the school hired a math coach, and the math teach­ers be­gan to meet with her each week. “I was old school, and she brought all of this stuff to us, and I learned how to be newer school,” she said, laugh­ing.

The school be­gan to shift its style of how math­e­mat­ics was taught, and although the shift was con­trary to Crink­ley’s orig­i­nal, old-fash­ioned teach­ing style, she took the chal­lenge head on and her col­leagues and su­pe­ri­ors watched her thrive.

“When she came back to teach­ing, it was about the same time we be­gan to shift the way we teach math­e­mat­ics,” said Napier. "And it’s not very com­mon for some­body who was used to the stand-and-de­liver, hand out work­sheets [style of teach­ing] to be will­ing to em­brace the change, adapt to change, and to be su­per suc­cess­ful at it. And she was re­ally one of the ones in this build­ing who was will­ing to re­ally em­brace it and to do it ex­cep­tion­ally well. And I think that that makes her re­mark­able.”

The new style of teach­ing that Crink­ley em­braced and still uses to­day in­volves a more hands-on ap­proach that is de­signed to give stu­dents a deeper un­der­stand­ing of math­e­mat­ics, out­side of the stan­dard pa­per and pen­cil for­mat.

“For ex­am­ple, she’ll use candy corn as tri­an­gles, and then she will cre­ate things, like larger tri­an­gles, us­ing the candy corn in her les­son,” Hortz said of Crink­ley. “An­other ex­am­ple is that whole shelf,” he said, point­ing to a nearby shelf full of bins of dif­fer­ent ob­jects. “So if you look at all that, those are all lessons. So the kids aren’t learn­ing with just pa­per and pen­cil, they’re do­ing this.”

“She’s al­ways been a great teacher, but when you give a great teacher great tools, they thrive,” he added. “And she’s truly thrived over the past 10 years. And I think you won’t find any­one here who would say she wasn’t a great teacher be­fore, but now she’s ex­po­nen­tially be­yond where she was. And the kids en­joy it … any­time you get a kid who talks about her class, they’ll say we used th­ese blocks, or th­ese skit­tles for this les­son, or we built a fake snow­man.”

Crink­ley be­lieves the hands-on, vis­ual ap­proach has played a sig­nif­i­cant role in help­ing her reach stu­dents of all learn­ing lev­els.

“I work with all lev­els … I work with some that are gifted, high-level thinkers, and I work with kids who can’t tell me what two times three is. But we break it down with skit­tles on their desk or with blocks, and I’ll say, ‘Break th­ese into groups of three,’ and then they’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s what two times three is,'” she said. “So you’ve got to come up with a way to help a child learn no mat­ter what level they’re on.”

Crink­ley said her main goal in the class­room is al­ways to teach stu­dents how to think on a deeper level, even if that means eas­ing the anx­i­ety and break­ing things down for strug­gling stu­dents. Her su­pe­ri­ors note that do­ing ex­actly that is what Crink­ley thrives at.

“When stu­dents are in sixth grade, that logic, their brains are not ma­ture enough yet,” she said. “So all year long I

try to teach them how to think, and if they’re bet­ter thinkers, it’s go­ing to help them in all sub­jects.”

“One thing she said in the [divi­sion Teacher of the Year] in­ter­view that was strik­ing was her un­will­ing­ness to com­pro­mise … she’s go­ing to make those kids think,” said Dou­glas. “It’s so much more to her than just get­ting the an­swer or the or­der of op­er­a­tions. She wants to know why.”

“She showed ex­am­ples of what she gives stu­dents where there’s not even an an­swer. It’s just some­thing that made them think, or some­thing with mul­ti­ple an­swers,” he added. “There was no one an­swer. I think a lot of times in the stan­dard move­ment we got away from that deeper think­ing, think­ing for think­ing’s sake and for deeper un­der­stand­ing. [But] it just flowed through the whole in­ter­view yes­ter­day and it was pow­er­ful. Be­cause that’s what we should be do­ing.”

A Teacher of the Year for the 2018-19 school year was orig­i­nally se­lected from each of Colo­nial Heights’ pub­lic schools based on nom­i­na­tions. The teach­ers who won in­cluded Tuss­ing Ele­men­tary School teacher Amy Selfe, North Ele­men­tary School teacher Jamie Arthur, Lake­view Ele­men­tary School teacher Kate­lyn Hai­ley, Crink­ley, and Colo­nial Heights High School teacher El­iz­a­beth Roberts.

Crink­ley and the other schools’ Teach­ers of the Year went through an in­ter­view process, an­swer­ing a va­ri­ety of ques­tions about their teach­ing meth­ods, be­fore Crink­ley was cho­sen.

Crink­ley, in­ter­est­ingly, fol­lowed in the foot­steps of her hus­band, who was the dis­trict’s Teacher of the Year about five years ago. He taught his­tory at CHHS and is now re­tired.

[KELSEY RE­ICHEN­BERG/PROGRESS-IN­DEX.COM]

Colo­nial Heights Mid­dle School Prin­ci­pal Wil­liam “Bill” Hortz presents sixth-grade math teacher Carolyn Crink­ley with flow­ers in a sur­prise Teacher of the Year an­nounce­ment at the mid­dle school Thursday.

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