NH Teacher of the Year Passionate About Engaging Students in Reading

Sep 28, 2017

Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, Concord High School English teacher Heidi Crumrine, and Concord High School principal Tom Sica after Crumrine was named New Hampshire Teacher of the Year
Credit NH Department of Education

Concord High School English teacher Heidi Crumrine was named New Hampshire Teacher of the Year on Tuesday.

The New Hampshire Department of Education says Crumrine was chosen for her dedication to teaching every type of learner. Now she’ll be the state’s candidate for National Teacher of the Year.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Crumrine on Wednesday.

The transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.

So what are you most passionate about when it comes to teaching?

I'm really passionate about engaging kids in reading. And as I teach high school, sometimes they come in and they've sort of lost their love of reading either through their lives have just gotten busy, or they sort of felt like they learned how to read and then I'm all set. And so I really try to reignite that passion through supporting them through a lot of independent reading, where I let them choose what they want to read with support for me in a way that allows them to read at their own pace and level of interest. And really just connecting the right kid with the right book at the right time—I really believe that can change the trajectory of their entire life. And it also helps me to just get to know them and engage with them, and then I sort of move the curriculum around that. But I have a lot of success with that and a lot of kids say I hate reading and then within a few weeks they—yesterday actually, a student said I just finished the first book I've ever read. I can't believe it. I'm so excited. What's the next one? And I gave them the next one, and I was just so proud of him. But was he was more proud of himself I think and that's a great feeling.

You're entering your 16th year of teaching and you've been with Concord High for 13 years. Now we hear so much about teacher burnout. What keeps you going? What keeps you motivated?

I think a lot of it honestly is the passion for getting kids to read, and that there's so much wonderful literature out there for young adults, and it's constantly coming out. And so I get excited about a book and then I want to connect the kids with that book. And so that helps me feel refreshed, but I also think it helps that every year is a different year. And so you get to start over and try new things. And as a person I'm evolving, but also as a profession we're evolving. And so as long as I'm wanting to keep looking at what's the next the next best practice that I can try, it helps keep me sort of excited about it. But I think it's being with the kids everyday too. They make me laugh, and engage with me, and I feel like I'm their biggest champion even if they don't know it.

As much as it is about learning to be a good teacher, you have to have a passion for it. You have to be, in some ways, you have to be born for it don't you?

Yeah. I mean, you talk to a lot of teachers and they really say they feel it's almost like a calling, or they've wanted to be teachers since they were little. And that doesn't mean that someone who falls into it later in life can't be phenomenal. But I definitely I wanted to be a teacher from you know as long as I can remember. I played school with my own little you know stuffed animals and lined them all up. I used to steal my second grade teacher’s pens out of her garbage can, because I wanted to be like her and I thought being like her was writing with her pen. But I think there's a lot of truth to that that you do sort of have it in you, or you learn to have it in you. You can learn it too.

How do you try and support students with different styles and abilities? It's got to be difficult when you have an entire classroom with students of individual needs?

Yeah. And I think seeking to understand them first before I expect them to understand me and where I'm coming from, and there's a lot of sort of not convincing but reminding them that I am on their side and I'm here to help them continue on their journey of becoming who they're meant to be. And I think like that level really helps. And so even when they're struggling, they understand I'm on their side. But I do try to individualize a lot too, and English lends itself to that. So like I said with the independent reading where if you really like sports literature, well then let's find you some sports literature, and let's read it. And my goal is to try to find increasingly challenging and complex books as time goes on, and maybe move that student into other genres. But, you know, if you don't like romance novels, then don't read romance novels. And the same with their writing, you know, we might have a particular topic or type of writing. Maybe we’re writing a story that is more of a narrative, but they can choose the actual topic. And I say to them if you don't like what you're writing about, find something else. Because the writing skills, that's my job to help you with, but you find your passion and we'll go from there.