As a toddler, Christina Randle loved to tag along when her mom volunteered at her big brother’s school. She loved the pencils, workbooks, markers, and notepads that were all associated with learning and school.
When she entered elementary school herself, the little girl discovered that she enjoyed helping others learn, too. She even brought her container of stickers from home to help motivate a classmate to finish his work.
With this innate passion for school and a desire to help others, it’s no surprise that Randle grew up to be the 2018 Colorado Teacher of the Year.
“I’ve seen Christina work her magic from year to year,” says Kim Easton, principal at Soaring Eagles Elementary School in Harrison School District Two, Colorado Springs, where Randle is a first grade teacher.
“She has this amazing ability to build relationships with her students. She can take a classroom with a struggling child and a gifted learner, wrap each of them up, work her magic, and provide each what they need to thrive,” Easton adds.
Colleagues at the school know Randle as a spirited team member. She’s the coach and the captain, the one leading projects like Thanksgiving Jars of Hope, which provides needy families with a proper holiday dinner. She’s also a cheerleader for her building, her peers, and her students, encouraging others to pursue their ideas and make their own dreams come true.
“I’m fortunate to work at a high functioning school full of amazing people who push me to be better,” Randle says. “Not only my peers, but our leaders know how to help their teachers grow.”
The main source of inspiration for Randle is her students. She observes them in class, paying attention to how they learn, observing what prompts a smile during a lesson or figuring out what makes them frustrated. She talks with their parents to find out what life is like outside of the classroom by asking, “What’s going on at home?” Then she works her magic, taking in all the information and creating a way to reach each kid.
“My best day is when we’ve had fun learning,” Randle says. “And I don’t mean goofing off, I mean when we have a difficult lesson and my students are challenged, but work through it, smiling and laughing in the process.”
As part of her award, Randle gets to be a pupil again as she takes part in a variety of professional development opportunities, including a week-long NASA space camp. In addition, Randle is the state’s nominee for the National Teacher of the Year Program competition.
“Christina Randle embodies Colorado’s commitment to building strong foundations by supporting high-quality early learning,” says Colorado education commissioner Katy Anthes. “Her focus on building skills, such as problem-solving and collaboration, will benefit students through their entire life. In this role, she will be able to share her passion for teaching across the state just like she has in her school and district.”
Tips from the Teacher of the Year
Growing up with parents who value education contributed to Randle’s success and passion for learning. “There is no better advocate for a child’s education than the child’s parents,” she says. Want to inspire your child? Here are Randle’s tips:
- Create consistency. Kids thrive off of routines and structure. In addition to homework and after-school routines, I suggest having expectations for your students. For my own child, we have behavior expectations for school; we expect her to be “green or higher.” She knows if she gets below that, she will have to explain why and lose her treat for the night.
- Keep communicating. This might seem obvious, but I appreciate parents who communicate. Letting me know changes in family structure (i.e. one parent is out of town for the week) gives valuable insight to possible demeanor or behavior changes in students. Letting me know if a student continues to struggle with the same friend allows me to be more aware of social dynamics in class. Beyond positive communication with the teacher, I cannot stress the importance of communication with your child. Be responsive and available; talk and listen to your child’s concerns. Model eye contact. Put away the phone so your child knows there is nothing more important to you. In my home, we have a “no phones at the dinner table” rule.
- Empower your kids. Give them responsibilities. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard parents say, “Johnny didn’t have his homework because I didn’t put it in his backpack.” Let Johnny put his homework in his backpack! Allow your kids to make mistakes and do not save them from consequences. Help them understand that we can learn and grow from our mistakes. Praise and celebrate their successes.
- Support educational partners. Teachers and parents have the same goal: we both want your child to be successful. Therefore, it is safe to assume the teacher has the best intentions at heart. When a teacher approaches you (the parent) with an idea or concern, keep an open mind. Support the school, too; your children are always listening. Your opinions and perceptions influence their thinking, so try to keep talk about school and teachers positive.