SMS’s Crandell named IRSD Teacher of the Year
“Energetic,” “persistent” and “student-centered” are just some of the words Indian River School District Superintendent Susan Bunting used to describe the 15 teachers honored at the district’s annual Teacher of the Year Ceremony last week. And Sharyn Crandell of Selbyville Middle School won District Teacher of the Year for 2011-2012.
The sixth-grade English language-arts teacher said she was humbled and honored to be recognized among such active and exceptional district educators. She gave her fellow teaching staff much credit for the award – especially her team at SMS, which is charged with teaching the mini-society of SMS sixth-graders called the RADS.
“We are like one family, and if it wasn’t for these guys that I teach with, I wouldn’t be here where I am. I would never have gotten this award,” Crandell said. “These guys are so a part of it.”
Originally from Wilmington, Crandell earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Delaware. She has taught at SMS for 16 years, including three years in special education.
Crandell said she always wanted to teach, even as a child instructing a playroom of dolls. Although there were no teachers in her family then, Crandell is now in good company with several relatives, including her husband, Colin, an eighth-grade science teacher who won SMS’s Teacher of the Year in 2009 and with whom she has two young children.
Sharyn Crandell originally planned to instruct first or second grade, but after she was accepted to teach SMS, she never left.
“I want [the students] to be lifelong readers and writers,” said Crandell, “but I want them to be lifelong learners and problem-solvers, because our world is changing.”
Crandell models this for students by allowing herself to learn from them – often in respect to technology. So the classroom becomes a mutual learning environment.
Teaching middle-school students is a challenge, Crandell noted. “You have to get and earn their respect for them to give it to you.”
Additionally, she said, a teacher must understand and relate to the students or risk losing their attention.
Crandell seems to have accomplished that goal. Four students regularly return to talk and eat lunch in her classroom. They also wrote a letter of recommendation for Crandell’s award.
“She connects the lessons to things that we can relate to,” said sixth-grader Lexi Haden, “and she’ll give examples of her life, like with her children.”
“And she raises her expectations for everyone,” Paige Troublefield said.
Crandell is team leader for the sixth-grade RADS, as well as a Learning Focus Strategies trainer and a member of the Instructional Leadership Team in the Vision 2015 network. The latter positions work to implement new teaching strategies and standards in the classroom.
Although she was “in shock” at receiving district Teacher of the Year honors, Crandell said, “I have lot of energy, and my kids kind of feed off that” in the classroom.
Crandell said she refocuses students’ social energy by allowing them to discuss lessons aloud. She calls the lively atmosphere “organized chaos.”
“It’s very productive,” Principle Mike King said. “Those kids are having fun. You never know what you’re going to see, but they’ll be engaged and having fun. She’s very creative.”
King said the staff and school are very proud of Crandell.
State Sen. George Bunting also presented Crandell with a commendation from the Senate Education Committee, saying, “We’re very proud of Indian River. Indian River stands very tall in the state of Delaware.”
Susan Bunting said she is proud of all 15 finalists for the district’s Teacher of the Year and believes each is a winner, adding that it was difficult for the 12-person committee to select just one.
Crandell will join district winners statewide in competing for Delaware Teacher of the Year. She will meet with the governor, lieutenant governor, Secretary of education and other dignitaries to discuss educational policy.
Susan Bunting said Crandell will represent the district well.
“She’s very well-spoken, and she will participate,” she said. “And she can make a definite difference.”