Kelly Blackman was named Oregons Substitute Teacher of the Year

by: PEGGY SAVAGE - Mulino Elementary first grade teacher Kelly Blackman strings an improvised pair of suspenders for a student.Kelly Blackman was cheerfully stringing colored yarn over a little girl’s shoulders, making a pair of improvised suspenders in her first grade classroom at Mulino Elementary School.

“It’s suspender day,” she whispered. “We are showing our support for a student’s sibling who has cancer. Suspenders are support. Some kids don’t have suspenders, so we are improvising.”

Amazingly, while she busied away finishing up the last pair, her classroom was quiet, even with busy children scattered around everywhere. It was silent reading time, and kids were huddled under their desks, absorbed with their picture books, curled up reading in a tee-pee, stretched out on the classroom carpet or sitting quietly at their desks, all reading away.

“Silent reading is a peaceful time to enjoy a great book, and I like to share the enjoyment with the students when I get the chance,” she said. “Our goal is 10 minutes of quiet reading a day, with nobody saying a word. Today we made it five minutes, which is a great improvement. Yesterday, we made three and a half.”

While conducting a math assessment test, Blackman read out the questions. "Don't worry if you don't know the answers to some of these questions," she said." They are first grade math problems, and we have only been first graders for 13 days."

by: PEGGY SAVAGE - Two little first graders huddled under their desks with their books during silent reading time in Blackman's classroom Friday.Blackman’s teaching techniques have clearly proved successful, as she was selected last week as Oregon’s Substitute Teacher of the Year.”

Now, she is “a real teacher” at Mulino Elementary School, where she started in September. Blackman is now teaching in the very same classroom where she attended first grade at Mulino Elementary. She was raised in Mulino and graduated from Molalla High School. And she waited five years for Mulino to have an opening for her. Principal Alan Wiley says the school staff are excited to have her there.

But at the time she was nominated, she ‘subbed’ at Butte Creek Elementary in Mount Angel.

“Substitute teachers provide the glue that keeps the educational process on track,” said Sally Cellers, of the Oregon Substitute Teachers Association.

A sub teacher fills in during times of crises; their services allow for the continuation of classroom time.

Every year the Oregon Substitute Teachers Association contacts each school in Oregon with an invitation to make nominations for the Oregon Substitute Teacher of the Year. The purpose in establishing the award has been to highlight the positive role of substitutes as part of the educational team and to honor individuals who exemplify the high standards that we value.

Blackman said students usually don’t consider a substitute a real teacher.

“‘A Real Teacher,’ almost every day I hear this from a student,” she wrote while still a substitute teacher at Butte Creek last spring. “Most kids don’t really understand that I am a teacher. They think of me as a babysitter.”

As a substitute, she said, she liked to take the time in the morning to explain that their teacher had left “awesome lessons plans,” so she would be doing exactly what the teacher would have done, if she were there.

by: PEGGY SAVAGE - Blackman has the first graders set up 'offices' out of folders while answering questions on a math assessment test. “My best assets as a sub was knowing the kids,” she said. “ I subbed so much in the schools that I was a familiar face when I would show up in their class. I knew the school and the curriculum.

The many nominees reinforce the belief that Oregon is fortunate to have a wealth of great substitute teachers who are prepared every day to make valuable contributions to the educational process. It is estimated that 10percent of student time is spent with a substitute teacher.

Blackman, the 2014 Oregon Substitute Teacher of the year, was enthusiastically endorsed by the principal of Butte Creek. Blackman will be introduced at the annual statewide conference on Oct. 26 in Forest Grove. She will then be honored at a school board meeting and on both the floors of the Oregon House and Senate on Oregon Substitute Teacher Appreciation Day in May.

OSTA is not the only group to recognize Blackman’s teaching ability. She has been hired this year to teach first grade at Mulino Elementary School. It is the same school, same room, same community as when she attended as a first grader in Mulino.

“My goal/plan is to get these kiddos on there way to being awesome students and loving what school is about,” she said.

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