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Educator Spotlight: Jean Guidry, 3rd Grade Teacher at Austin Elementary

January 9, 2010

What does a 30 year veteran teacher know about teaching gifted children?  From my view, she’s got it down.  But according to her, she’s got a lot to learn.

Several local parents and CGA members had raved about Jean Guidry, so I set out to find out what pearls of wisdom she could share that both parents and teachers could use.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Mrs. Guidry soon after she learned that she was a recipient of a 2009 NAGC scholarship from CGA.  We spent the first 15 minutes of the interview with her talking about how shocked she was that she won and of her excitement about the conference.  After getting to know her, I’m convinced she’s just humble and probably could have taught several of those sessions!

She says she didn’t learn much classroom management in school making those first few years tough, but she figured it out.  When asked what doesn’t work in a classroom, she said shouting.  If a student isn’t paying attention, she suggests moving closer to them or working their name into the lesson, or even asking them a question.

Guidry says it’s key for her get to know her students and for them to trust her.  Some she’ll get in 3 weeks, others Christmas, or maybe even Spring Break.  And, once they learn to trust her and she gets to know them, she pushes them.  She keeps them pushed right to the point below frustration.  She also points out that you have to be careful not to push them beyond what is age appropriate.  It can create more problems than good, so you must think with the end in mind. 

It takes eleven repetitions for the average child to absorb a concept into long-term memory, says Guidry.  If she repeats it enough, all the pieces will fall in.  She tells her students that it’s okay not to get it today.  She says it’s important to teach according to logic and build the concepts.  Tell the students why they are doing the work and how they’ll use it down the road.  Then, she uses homework to tell her whether or not the student can move on.  Can they do it with a minimal amount of help?  Once they get the concept, they create.   They take the skill and create 10 word problems, 10 sentences, etc.  She says they have to be the creator to fully embrace the concept.

I knew I wanted to be a teacher in 5th grade.  At first, I thought PE, but later decided on Elementary Ed.  I would do it even if they didn’t pay me.  It’s my 30th year and I love what I do.

Guidry also encourages participation in extracurricular activities to learn even more.  She says to go try everything while kids are in elementary school.  Team sports, singing, an instrument.  She says to do it early in school because once they get to middle school and certainly high school, activities become so intense that kids can’t do them all. 

On differentiation, Guidry says this is common sense.  What does this child need on an individual basis?  Give them their own work, but make it look the same as everyone elses.

When asked her advice to parents, Guidry said to encourage your kids’ strengths.  Go around the potholes.  If they aren’t good in an area, help them pass it, but don’t force them to make an A in it.  If they are bad at math but wonderful writers, tutor them enough to help them get through math so they can write a novel.  Parents can really help facilitate this by not criticizing the area of weakness.  This is vital for them to be confident and self-motivated.

I caught back up with Mrs. Guidry at the NAGC conference and her state was absolutely inspiring.  She was jazzed about new ideas, had a list of books she wanted to read, and was glowing with excitement.  A 30-year teacher with a thirst for knowledge – inspiring.

Jean Guidry and Bret Brummitt at NAGC

One Comment leave one →
  1. pilarcastrozena permalink
    January 13, 2010 7:11 pm

    Ms. Guidry is an amazingly talented educator. She taught my son, a GT student at Austin Ele. last year. Under her wing, Johnny flourished. I know that teachers like her are like jewels and as an educator myself of a title I school, I admire her and respect her. Thank you for highlighting her in this article.

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