Sunday, May 17, 2009

In Appreciaton

During Teacher Appreciation Week someone asked the question, which educator had inspired us the most? I did not have time to work on a blog post then, but I do want take the time to honor this retired educator now. Her name is Linda Rollyson and she came to Oneco Elementary School right after she had entered the DROP Program. For many years, she had been in the curriculum department in our county and she wanted to be back with the kids in the classroom before she retired.

Honestly, the first two years she was on campus I did little more than extend a causal greeting when I passed her in the hall. That changed at the end of her second year on campus when I was told I would be switching teams and moving across the hall for Mrs. Rollyson. At the time, it was a move I was not very excited about. There had been a huge and ugly personality conflict on the team I was being asked to join. So not knowing the situation I was walking into I was a bit nervous. However, this move was probably one of the most beneficial moves of my career. Not only did I gain an incredible friend and a wise mentor, but I under went a paradigm shift that continues to shape what goes on in my classroom to this day.

Before this move, I had attended workshops on Project Based Learning and my thoughts on the subject were a bit narrow. I thought projects sounded cool. However, I was worried about covering grade level standards and of course my students making the grade on FCAT. Through her modeling and conversations with Mrs. Rollyson I realize that all those objectives could be met while students were participating in project based experiences. I also began to see that with projects students were learning to apply the standards rather than interacting with them in isolation. As time went by, I realized that real learning takes place in the process and there are more important things in education than being able to come up with the right answer.

When she retired two years ago she left me with some video tapes on Constructivism, Steven Levy's book Starting from Scratch and many wonderful examples of giving students a task, a guide and an audience. At least once a day, I am reminded in someway what a gift the three years I worked across the hall from Mrs. Rollyson were. I heard her say many times, "That her goal at the beginning of each year was to make a difference in one child's life and everything else was icing on the cake." I guess that leaves me being a dab of grateful icing.

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