Timothy Garman, a fifth grade teacher at Northlake Hills Elementary School in Castaic, was named one of the “sweet 16” top teachers during ceremonies held Friday morning in Universal City. He is now in a group from Los Angeles County in the running for California Teacher of the Year.
“It’s quite an honor, I’m very, very overwhelmed,” he said.
Garman has been teaching fifth grade for the last seven years and at Northlake, runs the Student Intervention Group.
“I have chosen the last few years to take on the children labeled as ‘unmotivated’ or struggling with their learning and have pretty much given up,” he explained. “I see it as their last resort. They’re going to leave the elementary school and have a hard time and it’s their last chance to make it. I will do anything for these kids to be able to be successful.”
Asked if he was surprised by the recognition, Garman laughed.
“Absolutely. When the process began last school year and our principal announced on the loudspeaker that I had been chosen as the school Teacher of the Year, the kids were cheering and screaming.
“It’s incredible that my peers deem me worthy to be recognized in this way,” he said. “It’s absolutely incredible.”
Since those named Teacher of the Year are looked up to, what kind of advice would he give to someone considering the field?
“First off, I would sit down and talk with the individual and say teaching is not a job, not a profession, it’s a lifestyle. It’s one of those things that, from the minute you wake up in the morning until the minute you go down to sleep at night, you have to be constantly thinking of your students and trying to figure out ways to help them be successful.”
Teaching isn’t always sunshine and straight A’s, either.
“There’s going to be times when all you want to do is say ‘I’ve had it, I can’t go one more stretch,’” he explained. “At that time, that’s when I pull out my little notebook of letters that I have from my former students who have written incredible messages, such as ‘thank you for not giving up on me,’ ‘thank you for watching out for me.’ Those letters from students who have gone from being labeled as ‘unable to learn’ to where I’ve had students, one of my students, I just got a letter from her because she wrote a poem that is now going to be published in a book and they wanted to get my thoughts on that. Here’s a child that everyone had given up on and said was unable to learn.
“You have to realize that teaching isn’t about scores, it’s not about information that’s out there, it’s about getting these children to understand that they can accomplish whatever they want to set their minds on as long as we as adults guide them and give them the tools that they need to become the best learners – life-long learners.
He’s still modest about the honor, preferring to give students the credit.
“The recognition should be more for the students,” he said. “I’m not the one who has to do the hard work, because the kids have to do the hard work so it’s not fair that I take the glory. It’s really not about me, it’s about the kids.”
The county competition, presented by the Downey-based Los Angeles County Office of Education, is the largest competition of its kind in the state and nation, and is part of the oldest and most prestigious honors contest in the U.S. for public school teachers.
“These hard-working teachers have been judged by their colleagues as exemplifying the very best of this wonderful profession,” said Delgado of the group, each of whom received a $1,000 cash prize courtesy of the California Credit Union, the program’s main sponsor. “Every day in the classroom they make the most of a precious opportunity—to make a positive difference in the lives of their students.”
In addition to being interviewed, contestants submitted essays, lesson plans and other materials to judging panels comprised of education peers. At all levels, TOY contests are designed to focus public attention on teaching excellence and to honor exemplary dedication, compelling classroom practices, positive accomplishments and professional commitment.
The 16 L.A. County winners automatically advance with other county titlists from around the state to the California Teachers of the Year competition this fall. The state is scheduled to announce its five (5) co-winners in November. But only one (1) of those state co-winners will be chosen to represent California in the National Teacher of the Year contest next spring.