Crinkley named CH Teacher of Year
CHMS math teacher recognized for making a difference
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.
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.