November 23, 1998
Grace Dublin, Northshore Teacher of the Year, with some of her last year's sixth graders at Canyon Creek.
Photo courtesy of the Northshore School District.
by Deborah Stone, features writer
For Grace Dublin, Northshore School District's 1997-1998 Teacher of the Year, teaching is much more than just instruction.
"It is the art of building relationships," explains Dublin, "Relationships between teacher and student; teacher, student and parents; teacher, student, and other school resources; and between the school and those in them and the community at large." Dublin's skill in this area, as well as her creativity, dedication, and leadership ability earned her the district's highest recognition for teachers.
The Kenmore resident has been a sixth grade teacher at Canyon Creek Elementary for the past ten years, and in this time has fostered a reputation as a passionate, inspirational educator. Canyon Creek Elementary Principal Ann Panush writes, "Grace Dublin stands out above all others with an extraordinary ability to inspire children and adults to become lifelong learners. She inspires with her ability to question, her passion for diversity, and her visionary philosophy."
Dublin makes learning come alive in her classroom by giving children opportunities to practice what they're learning. She feels that when this occurs, kids invest more, and the rewards are greater.
"Students know when they're doing real work and using what they learn," says Dublin. "My goal is to empower each student to participate in his or her own learning and for them to see that learning as relevant and meaningful."
Dublin's classroom is student-centered where she, too, is one of the learners. Her insatiable curiosity, inquisitiveness, and excitement about learning are contagious. Students can't help but get caught up in this excitement and transfer it to their own learning.
Since starting at Canyon Creek ten years ago, when she renewed her teaching career after raising her kids, Dublin has been a pioneer in piloting new teaching techniques. After her fifteen-year absence from the profession, she was disturbed to see that not much had changed. "I would see kids coming to ask if they could play with the computer after they had done their work," says Dublin. "I found this upsetting, as I saw the computer as a working tool, a powerful tool for learning."
Students in Dublin's classroom use the latest technology to locate, process, assemble, and effectively communicate information. They create spreadsheets, databases, and electronic portfolios, as well as utilize video software to produce various standards-driven assignments and assess their own learning. In essence, they mirror how technology is used in the world today.
Last year, Dublin secured a grant from NASA, allowing her students to sign onto the Internet and simulate launching a mission to the moon. "Computers are an integral part of how the world works," explains Dublin. "It's not the future. It's now, and it must be a part of everyone's lives. My responsibility is to create a classroom learning environment capable of preparing my students for life in the modern world."
Another responsibility that Dublin feels strongly about is helping promote tolerance and acceptance of diversity. Respecting and celebrating individual differences is an important part of her class climate. Her work in the area of multi-cultural education and her class discussions about stereotyping people of diverse backgrounds were featured in a Seattle Times special edition entitled "On Common Ground," which focused on diversity in the Puget Sound Region. Dublin makes resources available for students to access different cultures and helps them seek answers to their questions about their own values and beliefs.
She strives to make a difference in her students' lives and feels the key to doing this is to help them learn about themselves and the ways to make them successful. This is a team effort, according to Dublin, that involves teachers, students, and parents, planning and implementing strategies for student success.
Setting high standards for herself and her students and demanding that those standards are met are paramount to developing the personal discipline and focus necessary to this success. "I want them to leave my classroom with the confidence they can be successful for the rest of their lives," states Dublin.
Evidence that her approach to education does indeed work comes from her numerous former students who return to her classroom year after year seeking her advice and guidance. "Many of them come back in the ninth grade to share their 'break-out' year-end project with my students and me," says Dublin. "They are proud of their work and themselves, and their confidence shows. The connection that I continue to have with my students is so rewarding and validates my philosophy about teaching."
Dublin is honored to be a part of the Northshore District teaching staff and feels the district's educational climate is invigorating. She comments, "Northshore is doing a good job of understanding the reforms of education and how to move the system of public education into the next century. There is a strong technological infrastructure here, many bright and passionate teachers, good support, and opportunities for teachers to be leaders. My three children, now 20, 22, and 25 years old, are all products of a Northshore District education, and I feel their learning experiences were outstanding. Receiving the Teacher of the Year award in a district of excellence means very much to me. It makes me feel good to know that I'm representative of many excellent teachers in Northshore."