Riverbank is home to an extraordinary teacher. More than one, administrators and students will likely tell you, but one in particular that is getting some special recognition.
Teachers are important role models for the youth of today and the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE) has designed the Teacher of the Year awards to pay tribute to teachers in grades K-12 in Stanislaus County to promote and celebrate the teaching profession.
California Avenue Elementary fourth grade teacher Penny Bartholomew was nominated for the 2015 Stanislaus County Teacher of the Year by Principal Kathy Briggs for her outstanding efforts and contributions and has made it to the top three finalists in the fourth to sixth grade category.
There is a process that Bartholomew has had to go through in order to make it to the point where she is at now.
According to the SCOE website, to be nominated for the award the teachers must: inspire all students to reach their highest academic potential and work to maximize their social and emotional development; consistently support high expectations for learning and responsible behavior at school and within the community; approach teaching with creativity, enthusiasm, and a true appreciation for the individual differences among all students; and, cultivate a life-long interest in learning among all students. The program is implemented with the involvement of local public and private schools within Stanislaus County and is administered by the Modesto Rotary Club and the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE).
Bartholomew had to fill out an application and answered four questions such as what inspired her to be a teacher.
“I think they want an overall feeling to see that you aren’t just a classroom teacher and that you do other things,” said Bartholomew. “I think this time there were 87 candidates and they go through the paper process.”
SCOE representatives then picked 24 candidates from the paper process, which includes six people in each category of K-3, 4-6, 7-8, and 9-12.
The next process was the observation stage where five people from SCOE entered the teacher’s classroom for about 45 minutes.
The teacher does not get introduced to them so they do not know who the people observing are. They roamed around the classroom asking the students questions and took some pictures of their work. The lesson that Bartholomew was teaching when she was observed was a new math lesson.
“We were rocking math so I was excited,” stated Bartholomew. “The students loved it (math activity).”
After the observations, Bartholomew and her class were videotaped by people from SCOE’s technology department. To do something different, Bartholomew created a language lesson for the videotaping portion of the process where they interviewed her and the students.
Growing up, Bartholomew knew deep down that she was going to be a teacher, as did her family and friends.
“My thing is I like the fact that I grew up in Riverbank and for me it is a privilege to come back and teach where I grew up to show the community and the kids that coming from Riverbank you can be successful if you try no matter where you are from,” explained Bartholomew. “That is one of the main reasons why I liked the fact that coming back as a teacher I am lucky enough to teach in the district I grew up in and watched it grow.”
Graduating from Riverbank High School with only 93 kids in her class, Bartholomew has seen the district grow as well as the community.
“In order for my students to want to learn it is important for me to let them know the ‘I can’ attitude, they need to learn to believe in themselves as much as letting them know I believe in them and encourage their learning every day,” expressed Bartholomew. “I set the bar high and hold my students accountable and they know I have high expectations.
“Education these days is a challenge especially with the new common core. I am excited about common core because it is not only a challenge for my students, but also a challenge for me and I love a challenge.”
Bartholomew said together, she and her students will get it done.
“This year our class motto has been Teamwork. You can ask any of my students what that means to us as a class and they will tell you we work together and leave no one behind. We help those who need help in order to understand a new concept.”
Bartholomew has been teaching at California Avenue Elementary for the past four years and has been in charge of Red Ribbon Week. This year the students participated in a dance-a-thon and Bartholomew made it a goal to order every student a Jaguar Pride T-shirt, with 570 shirts were ordered.
“I have been in the classroom for several years now and I can say I still get excited when I learn new things and can engage my students and their excitement for learning,” added Bartholomew. “I have had a lot of positive role models in my career and I would like to thank them for all their continued support in believing in me as a teacher.”
There will be one person selected from each grade level category as the top Stanislaus County teacher and they will then start another paper process and move to the state level.
The announcement of the Teacher of the Year in each of the categories will be held on May 5 at a luncheon in Modesto.
“I would also like to thank my family, friends, and staff who have all been supportive in my teaching career,” said Bartholomew. “Thanks to my principal Mrs. Briggs for the nomination and Jill Hodge for being supportive and helpful in this process.”