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Posts Tagged ‘Mrs. Caffrey’

world-teacherSo, just how many of your teachers from grade school can you name?

I was struck by a story shared by Dean Shareski on Opening Day about The Amazing Miss A and Why We Should Care About Her.  The study comes from McGill Faculty of Education, Professor Eigil Pedersen.  The study initially looked at how students who had Miss A for grade 1 showed an increase in IQ scores between grades 3 and 6 while those in other classes were stable.  There was nothing unique about Miss A’s class but something was going on.  Students were again studied years later and given an “adult status” score  including factors such as the highest grade of high school completed, the type of housing they occupied, their personal appearance and their occupational status.  And again it was those in Miss A’s class that stood out.

And what else was true, every single pupil of Miss A’s could remember her as their grade 1 teacher.  So what was it about the magical Miss A?

lt was reported that she never lost her temper or resorted to physical restraint, and showed obvious affection for the children. She generated many lessons on the importance of schooling and why students should stick to it. She gave extra hours to pupils who were slow learners. She believed every pupil could learn. That surely explains the one characteristic that emerged as a steady pattern, illustrated best by the comment of one respondent, “it did not matter what background or abilities the beginning pupil had there was no way that the pupil was not going to read by the end of grade one.”

The entire story is worth reading and a good reminder that we need to be careful to buy into simple explanations of socio-economic conditions as being the sole determiner of students’ success.  It also is an excellent reminder of what are truly the characteristics of a great teacher.

The story got me thinking, when I look at my K-12 school years – how many of my teachers could I name?  I actually did pretty well and have really nice things to say about virtually all of them.  So, on this World Teachers’ Day I would like to thank those who I remember:

K – Mrs. Groening

Grade 1 – Can’t remember name and don’t have good memories

Grade 2 – Mrs. Caffrey  (Read all about her)

Grade 3 – Mrs. Caffery

Grade 4 – Mrs. Caffrey

Grade 5 – Mr. Nakanishi

Grade 6 – Mr. Whitehead

Grade 7 – Mr. Taylor

Grade 8 – Mrs. MacDonalnd (Science), Ms. Bourne (English), Mrs. White (Social Studies), Mr. Inglis (Math), Mr. Paquet (PE and French), Mr. Hobson (Band), Mrs. Hicks (Food and Clothing) 8 out of 8

Grade 9 – Mr. Carroll (Science) Ms. Ball (English), Mr. Bryan (Social Studies), Mr. Loader (Math and Computer Science), Mr Milholm (PE), Mr. Hobson (Band) 7 out of 8

Grade 10 – Mr. Carroll (Science),Ms. Bourne (English), Mr. Bryan (Social Studies), Ms. Blaschuk (Math), Mr. Hirayama (PE), Mr. Hobson (Band and Consumer Ed) 7 out of 8

Grade 11 – Ms. Carey (English), Mr. Brown (Social Studies), Mr. Turnbull (Math), Mr. Gresko (Biology), Ms. Hurley (Computer Science), Mr. Spearman (Law) 6 out of 8

Grade 12 – Ms. Carey (English), Mr. Brown (Western Civ and Literature), Mr. Commons (History), Mr. Topping (Geogrpahy), Mr. McCallum (French) 6 out of 7

It is an interesting exercise.  I have strong memories of almost all the teachers I remember and they are almost exclusively not about what I learned, but how their class made me feel.

To all my teachers, and those in the profession past and present – Happy World Teachers’ Day.

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As we celebrate World Teachers’ Day, I want to celebrate some of the teachers who, early in my career, have influenced and shaped the teacher I have become. Last year, I celebrated my own teachers — in particular, Mrs. Caffrey — and the influence she had on me as a student.  Today, I want to thank a few teachers who made all the difference in my very first year of teaching.

There is a bit of luck involved where one lands as a new teacher.  When I started in September 1996, I landed at McRoberts Secondary in Richmond.  I was teaching outside my area (as a Humanities teacher in a Math/Science assignment), but was immediately partnered with Bill Lawrence as my mentor. Bill, was a kid-magnet and made science and math relevent and engaging. That first year, I remember how he gave up his October PSA Professional Development Day to spend the day planning with me.  We both taught a double block of Math/Science 8.  We took the time to build several units we could do in tandem.  He was also so willing to share.  Admittedly, I had some colleagues who protected their lesson plans and resources like state secrets, but Bill’s filing cabinets were always open to me.  And even though science and math were not my areas of expertise, he treated me like a true partner in our teaching  — although I know I was getting far more from him than he was from me.  From “egg drops” from the roof to “the science of breakfast cereal” he helped me see the course wasn’t the textbook.

It was not only Bill who made a difference in that first year.  When one is surrounded by excellent teachers, that excellence is bound to rub off.  I watched how Doug Sheppard built an outline for a course around student outcomes and not activities — this was a new way of thinking for me.  I also saw Doug use a final exam that had only one question, and certainly different from the multiple choice tests I assumed were the only final exam option.  I also worked with Gail Sumanik who was in the role of principal, but was a teacher first.  She challenged and supported me as I began to figure my way in the profession.  And, then there was Fred Harwood, who quietly offered to switch one block in our teaching assignments that first year; it gave him one extra course to prep, and me one less — one of the little things that can make a big difference for a first-year teacher.

It was a bit of great luck I had in my first year, to have mentors who took time to help me become successful, to be surrounded by excellent teachers sharing their craft in a culture that was accepting and encouraging.

As we celebrate World Teachers’ Day — and all the wonderful ways teachers are making a difference; making our world a bit better, one child at a time, I want to thank Bill, Doug, Gail, Fred and all the others for their insightfulness, taking the time to help me find my way, and welcome me to the most amazing profession in the world.

Happy World Teachers’ Day!

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I was lucky to have a number of amazing teachers in both my elementary and secondary schools. I began my teaching career in the same district I grew up in, at a school I attended, McRoberts Secondary.  So, over the years, I have had the opportunity to say “Thank You” to many of the amazing teachers who have influenced my life,  some now colleagues and friends.  But, there is one teacher, Mrs. Caffrey, to who I never fully expressed how much she meant to me.

As we celebrate World Teachers Day, I want to say a belated “Thank You” to Mrs. Caffrey and all my other teachers who have influenced my life.  Often, we are lucky to have an amazing teacher for one year, I had Mrs. Caffrey for three years, in Grades 2, 3 and 4, at Daniel Woodward Elementary. I didn’t have the best experience as a Grade 1 student.  I can still remember being singled out by the teacher because of my weak reading skills, and not being allowed to read the books I saw all my friends reading.  Three years later, I left Grade 4 confident with my learning and, while there were many factors at play, I owe Mrs. Caffrey a lot of credit. Some of the specifics have faded over time, but there is still a lot I remember:

  • Mrs. Caffrey would regularly ask me and other students about what we were doing outside of school.  She knew about my hockey and soccer teams, and would often ask how we were doing — she was genuinely interested.
  • She held me accountable.  I can still see her at her desk calling “Christopher James” — she would use my middle name when I produced work that was sloppy or rushed — she held me accountable to do my best work.
  • She had some amazing stories she had written about her own kids and family, and would read them to us as a special treat on some Friday afternoons.
  • She gave me a Mr. Men book (I actually still remember it was Mr. Bump). I did struggle with the reading, but this book became a prized possession, and through her encouragement my reading improved.
  • She was not very ‘sporty’ but she was one of the coaches at track and field every spring.
  • She connected me and a number of my classmates to Ms. Knoepfel (yet another great teacher who influenced me) who, through an amazing enrichment program, exposed us to Olympics of the Mind and other similar problem-solving activities. Ms. Knoepfel also engaged us with technology (Lemonade Stand and Oregon Trail on our Apple IIe computers).

Mostly, I remember Mrs. Caffrey made me feel safe, and I was excited to come to school everyday.  To this day, 28 years later, I smile when I think about her.  And so, I feel I never really properly thanked her.

Mrs. Caffrey went on to teach both of my younger brothers, and I went back to the school after leaving Grade 7, spending the next five years helping coach basketball. I would often see her, she would always ask about me, my family and my interests. About a dozen years ago, I received a  card in the mail from her congratulating me on some of my achievements.  There was no return address — I probably should have tried harder to find her — just a couple years later I saw her obituary in our local paper.  I clipped it out, it reminds me to thank people when I have the chance.

In Daniel Woodward Elementary School, I acquired my love of basketball from my Grade 5 teacher, Mr. Nakanishi; my Grade 6 teacher, Mr. Whitehead, committed me to becoming a lifetime fan of Bruce Springsteen and, my Grade 7 teacher, Mr. Taylor, became a mentor as we coached basketball together in the years that followed.  The three great years I had in Grades 5-7 were possible because of my experiences with Mrs. Caffrey — someone who quietly changed my life and, I am sure, the lives of many others. So, Mrs. Caffrey – I am sorry this is a bit late, but “Thank You”. Thank you for deciding to teach and thank you for being such a forceful influence in my life.

To all my teachers, past and present, and to the many great teachers I get to work with every day in West Vancouver and beyond, all the best on this World Teacher’s Day!

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