Kimberly Ulmer nominated Linda Taylor for Class Acts. Ulmer said Taylor is dedicated and assesses each child's needs and helps them learn in their own way. Taylor is kind, patient and understanding and always makes time to talk with parents in order to build a strong team to help her students, Ulmer said.
• Name: Linda Taylor
• Age: 58
• City of residence: Modesto
• Occupation: Third-grade GATE (gifted and talented education) teacher and school community garden coordinator at El Vista Elementary
• Family: Grandson, Jonathan, and cat, Beauty
• Education background: Modesto Junior College and California State University, Fresno
• Teaching experience: Special education at Howard Training Center and Kennedy School for almost one year; then training new ROP students during my 14-year employment with the banking industry. My public school experience has been 19 years at El Vista Elementary. There I have taught regular third- and fourth-grade classes. The past three years, I have been privileged to teach third-grade GATE scholars and establish the learning center at my school.
Why did you get into teaching?
Teaching has always been a passion of mine. When I originally received my secondary credential, there were no teaching jobs due to an abundance of applicants. It wasn't until 1989 that I quit the banking profession and moved back to Fresno to change my credential to elementary. I had been talking to my daughter's teacher, Sabina Fink, at Beard Elementary. She convinced me that my real profession should be teaching because I talked so much about it.
What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
My favorite thing is what I call the aha moments. This is when a child truly understands a hard concept that they have been working really hard to master. The child just seems to light up, and their eyes glow.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Primary teachers must teach several subjects. The time it takes to prepare for this in order to make everything challenging and interesting is incredible. Teachers must select the appropriate materials for the several learning abilities of all of their students.
What is the most important lesson you've learned?
That teaching is a team effort. The first thing that must be done in a school year is to develop a partnership with the parents of the students. Then the children really know that their education and school is important.
What is your favorite teaching tool or activity?
Teaching problem-solving in mathematics. At the beginning of the school year, I teach my students many different ways to solve word problems. Their favorite strategy is to draw a picture or diagram. Students are very creative while working on this. They love to come up in front of the class to share their solutions using the projector.
What's next in your classroom?
We will be taking the skills that have been learned and apply them to create research projects and presentations. The scholars will learn how to summarize information that they have obtained from books and computers. They will need to extract the information needed to complete the project. Then they will need to draw or find diagrams or pictures for their presentation.
What advice do you have for students?
The key to being a successful student is to get organized. Know where to find the materials you need and put them back in the right place. This is especially important when you start having more difficult homework. Before going to school every morning, check to make sure that you have everything you need, and that it is completed.
What advice do you have for parents?
Parents can be the most important part in their child's educational success. You need to talk to your child daily about school. At home they need to have a specific time and place to complete homework. Limit television and computer use on school nights so that children will do other activities. Having family sit-down meals will pay off in your relationships.
What will it take to improve academic success in the valley?
Academic success will improve in the valley when education and children become a main focus for funding. Teachers are asked every year to do much more with much less. Very few schools have the technological tools to teach effectively. Students will feel more successful when our highly trained teachers are able to obtain the materials they need.
How do you try to reach students not interested in school?
Many students may be uninterested in school because it is unimportant to them. They don't want to put the effort into their personal learning because it will take time away from other things that take less concentration and work. Parents can help greatly with this by taking their child to the library or one of the many local free events. The most important thing is to emphasize successes and not failures. It would really help if they aren't constantly taking tests. Teachers would be able to help the students be more interested if they were given the proper time to learn things.
What one area should schools put more emphasis on?
Schools need to emphasize the individual learning needs of each student. Class sizes in the primary grades, kindergarten through third grade, must remain small so that teachers will be able to give the students a good learning foundation. Smaller class sizes enable each teacher to work with students individually on subjects that are more challenging for them. This is particularly important with students from bilingual families.
If you could change one thing about the current educational system, what would it be and why?
The way teaching materials are created. The big publishers need to spend more time gaining experience by being in classrooms and listening to teachers' needs.
What would surprise people about your job?
The number of quick decisions a teacher must make during a school year. An example (of this) is the handling of classroom discipline. The teacher must be fair and appropriate while still trying to teach without distracting the learning of others.
What are your future plans?
In two to four years I should be able to retire. I plan to be a very active helper at my grandson's school. I will be a docent at the McHenry Mansion and Museum. Then I will also make time for my true passion, which is gardening.