Cindy Grier admits feeling a little embarrassed by the images scrolling across the screen of a mounted television in the front office of East Hall High School.
Each image congratulates Grier in a unique way for being named the districtwide Teacher of the Year for Hall County Schools. Read about all of Hall's 2018-19 Teachers of the Year.
For example, her name is spelled out on the side of an airplane and in neon lights in the images, and her smiling face emerges in a cup of latte and on the cover of a vinyl record.
“They’ve all been just extra wonderful and congratulatory,” Grier said of her colleagues. “I’m honored.”
The shock of receiving such an honor has still not worn off.
“I don’t feel deserving when compared to all the great things going on in just this building,” Grier said.
School: East Hall High School
Years at school: 20
Years teaching: 27
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: “Of course I enjoy the subject I teach, but the greater joy comes from the endless opportunities teaching provides to make an impact on so many young lives. As a teacher, I have the chance to not only educate my students in the area of mathematics, but also help develop their character. It is immensely rewarding to hear from a current, or former, student that I made a positive difference for them in some way. Without a doubt, that has to be the greatest blessing of being a teacher.”
And receiving Teacher of the Year honors brings added responsibility, Grier concedes.
“There is a lot of pressure,” she said. “I hope that I can at least ... let the public know what a special place this is.”
For the past 20 years, Grier has devoted herself tirelessly to the students at East Hall High. How has she done it? How has she stayed fresh?
“I think adaptability might be the key,” she said. “We are continually evolving ... or we should be.”
This can be particularly challenging at East Hall, however, where many students are first-generation immigrants and many come from low-income households.
“Every choice they make has a consequence,” Grier said, adding that many of her students can be “rough around the edges” when she first gets to them.
Breaking down barriers and releasing the exuberance for learning in these students begins with developing a personal relationship with them, Grier said.
She understands that math, and advanced courses she teaches like pre-calculus, can be intimidating and may not be every student’s strong suit.
So, Grier pushes some students hard and backs off others who need time to absorb the lessons.
“I try to understand their goals,” she added.
Building trust, showing reliability and consistency, and letting students know she values them as people first, have been important hallmarks of Grier’s teaching style.
“It makes them more teachable,” she said. “And teaching those kids is just a dream.”
Grier was taught in a kind of “sage on the stage” lecturing environment.
But as technology infiltrates the classroom, her penchant for adaptability becomes even more important.
Technology can be both a beneficial tool and something students rely too much on, Grier said.
Either way, it serves as a reminder of the continued training even the most accomplished and acclaimed teachers need to remain at their best.
“We all need to keep learning,” Grier said.