Eighth-grade earth science teacher Colin Crandell was recently named Teacher of the Year at Selbyville Middle School.
Crandell, in his sixth year of teaching, is modest in his acceptance of the honor.
“I look around at teachers that are more experienced, more organized and more dedicated... It’s flattering, but there are so many good teachers. I feel like a baby, still,” he said.
Crandell, originally from Clearfield, Pa., attended Shippensburg as an undergrad and got a degree in earth and space science and then got his first master’s degree in athletic administration from Slippery Rock University. He is currently working on his second master’s, in applied technology. The earth and space science degree was a natural extension of his hobby of star-gazing, which he did with his father, and an interest in the outdoors.
“My dad worked in the strip-mines, so he had crazy hours. He was out at night looking at planets and constellations and stars. And, for family vacations, we didn’t go to the beach – we went for a two-day canoe trip. In Western Pennsylvania, there is lots of hiking and biking and canoeing,” he recalled.
Crandell’s mother, on the other hand, was a teacher. As a result, being a school teacher was not on his short list of things to do in life.
“My mom was a teacher, so I swore I wouldn’t teach. When you have a teacher as a mom, you always feel like a student, so I could never eat gum, we couldn’t say ‘shut up.’ I couldn’t say I hated things. I had to say I disliked them,” joked Crandell.
But, as it turned out, teaching was in the stars for him, regardless of his initial impulses.
In the past, Crandell held positions as a snowboard instructor in Colorado and a full-time lifeguard in Florida. During the summer, he still heads up the Middlesex and Indian Beach beach patrols.
“You play as long as you can, but after while you want something more challenging,” he said. “And I always had the degree, but then I finally used it.”
And challenging it is.
Eighth-grade is a pivotal transitional point in students’ lives where, according to Crandell, one of his priorities is to make school on the students’ top-five list.
“My goal is not to teach content but to prepare them for problem-solving. Every day, I get asked, ‘When will I need this?’ and, most of the time, they won’t ever. But, if you can explain to them how it works, it helps with problem-solving. My philosophy is to help them see the purpose in what they are doing, that it is merely something that needs to be solved, and problem-solving is a skill they will use.”
As part of his master’s degree in applied technology, Crandell is sharpening his multi-media skills and, as evidenced by students’ participation in his online blog, the Internet levels the playing field for a group of students at a critical age of trying to find out who they are without getting lost in the shuffle of peer pressure and outside influences.
“[With the computer] the ‘quiet’ ones speak up, the ‘cool’ ones calm down. Just this week, I have a pile of extra-credit work done outside the scope of my classroom [accessed online]. I thought I might get four of five or 10, and I got 40. I was surprised, but that’s where they are.”