Teacher of the Year finalist from Modesto gets to see others in action

naustin@modbee.comApril 23, 2013 

    alternate textNan Austin
    Title: Education reporter
    Coverage areas: K-12 education, Yosemite Community College District
    Bio: Nan Austin has been a copy editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 24 years. She has an economics degree from CSU Stanislaus and previously worked at the Merced Sun-Star and Turlock Journal.
    Recent stories written by Nan
    On Twitter: @nanaustin
    E-mail: naustin@modbee.com

— She took top Stanislaus County honors last year and was a finalist in the state 2012 Teacher of the Year contest. This year, she helped evaluate the 2013 county nominees and describes seeing other teachers in action as her chance to be a student.

“Interesting, exciting lessons, techniques and strategies, I’m always looking for that. What else can I do to get inside their little heads?” said Standiford Elementary teacher Lynda Griblin with a chuckle.

Griblin weathered the same critiques last year, as well as panel interviews, in-depth discussions and a long wait to hear state results.

Now on the other side of the clipboard, she said she appreciated the time to watch other teachers. “As a teacher, you end up in your domain and never get time to see other classrooms (in action). It made me look at some things we’re going to implement,” she said.

Spoiler alert, Standiford pupils: Next year’s class will be working on more precise vocabulary, answering questions with full sentences and doing more explaining of why things work.

Those mirror the changes envisioned with Common Core standards, but Griblin said she’s always tried to challenge students to ask questions and figure it out.

“If we just read it in the book, it’s not fun,” she said. “As soon as you start going, ‘Why?’ then your brain is really engaged. You want to know that answer.”

This month, her class covered electrical circuits in science, first working with batteries and wires to make a tiny light come on. After trying and failing and trying again until it worked, students took notes on a lecture and read the chapter.

The simple exercise proved tougher than it looked, said David Pham, 10. “It is kinda easy, but once you get to do it, it’s kinda hard,” he said, staring at the stubbornly unlit light bulb as he joined different wires.

It’s classic Griblin. First pique kids’ interest. When they’re brimming with questions, bring in the textbooks.

Books are tools, just like pliers. “They see me looking up words. We have dictionaries all over the floor,” she said, waving a hand at stacks by each four-desk group. “You don’t say, ‘I can’t spell.’ You find a tool and use it,” Griblin said.

Her style gets kids “primed and ready to learn,” said Standiford Principal Matthew Shipley.

He grades teachers in three areas: “Content knowledge. Do they know the subject? Pedagogical skills. Do they know how to teach? And compelling nature. Do they have a way of connecting with kids? They need all three to be a great teacher,” Shipley said.

The last is the hardest to teach a teacher, he said, adding that’s where Griblin really shines.

Before her current assignment, she spent several years teaching junior high remedial readers. “I taught students who hated school, hated reading and did not want to be in my class,” she recalled.

Her first assignment for them: Write a paragraph justifying why a favorite song was a great song. Discussion went from those passionate paragraphs to imagery of the lyrics, symbolism and other standard English textbook material. Literature came to life with dramatic readings.

She piqued interest first. Classic Griblin.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339, on Twitter, @NanAustin, www.modbee.com/education.


These teachers were selected from among 70 nominees as finalists for Stanislaus County Teachersof the Year, the Stanislaus County Office of Education announced Tuesday:

KINDERGARTEN-THIRD GRADE: Michelle Cardoso of Earl, Kelly Villalobos of Wakefield and Tanya Freitas White of Medeiros, all in Turlock

FOURTH-SIXTH GRADES: Marie "Toni" David of Agnes Baptist in the Stanislaus Union district, Jamie Garner of Walnut in Turlock and Niki McCoy of Fair Oaks in Oakdale.

MIDDLE SCHOOL: Lisa Anglim of Ustach Middle in Sylvan district, Jason Gillespie at Hart-Ransom, and Aimee Shepherd Matlock of Roosevelt Junior High in Modesto City Schools

HIGH SCHOOL: Jill Ogden of Turlock High, Heidi Pagani of Beyer High and Denise Springer of Oakdale High

The Modesto Rotary and the Stanislaus County Office of Education will honor the finalists and announce the four 2013 Stanislaus County Teachers of the Year at a Rotary luncheon May 7. Teachers were nominated by their principals. A selection committee of Rotarians and educators narrowed the nominations by a paper screening process and visited the classrooms of the 12 finalists.

Source: Stanislaus County Office of Education

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