‘This is not an 8-to-5 job’

By Mary Hood
Fairhope Courier Intern
Posted 5/23/07

FAIRHOPE — With tears in her eyes and a lump in her throat, Christine Sealy told a story of a boy who exemplified the little moments that she works so hard for as a teacher.

“All of a sudden one day he couldn’t read and the next day, wow, …

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‘This is not an 8-to-5 job’


FAIRHOPE — With tears in her eyes and a lump in her throat, Christine Sealy told a story of a boy who exemplified the little moments that she works so hard for as a teacher.

“All of a sudden one day he couldn’t read and the next day, wow, he was reading up a storm,” Sealy said.

Inspiration like this has made Sealy work hard and be a dedicated, enthusiastic teacher. Sealy’s dedication and enthusiasm resulted in her selection as Alabama Elementary Teacher of the Year.

Sealy teaches first grade at the J. Larry Newton School where she has worked for three years. She’s taught at the elementary level for 11 years. Prior to the Newton school, she taught at Fairhope Elementary.

Sealy didn’t initially plan on teaching but said coming from a family of teaching, it was only something she could put off for so long.

“My family are all educators,” Sealy said. “My mother was a teacher, a principal, and both my brothers are teachers and coaches at Satsuma High School; both my sisters-in-law are teachers.”

“Everybody was a teacher but me.”

She said her husband, Mark, was skeptical at first about her becoming a teacher but was “incredibly supportive.”

Sealy has a master of arts degree in elementary education from the University of Mobile. She currently serves as an Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative Lead Teacher for the elementary faculty and serves as a school technology mentor. Last summer, she participated in the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI).

“My family has been unbelievable through this entire process supporting me,” Dean said. “My family, my friends, the school, the community, everybody’s been behind me. It’s been so nice.”

In addition to what Sealy calls “her children,” referring to her students, she also has two children of her own, Alex, 13, and Riley, 2.

Sealy said she chose the elementary level because she relates better with younger children.

The process of being chosen as Alabama Elementary Teacher of the Year was long and arduous, but Sealy said it’s been worth it.

“It has been a incredible experience already,” Sealy said. “I feel like I”ve grown as a person already.”

She said the process began with nominations at the school level where her peers nominated her.

“This is where it all started,” Sealy said referring to Newton.

Sealy was named the 2007 J. Larry Newton Elementary School Teacher of the Year.

From there, the selection moved from county to district then to state level. Sealy said she had to write 15 typed pages of material, submit two 20-minute videos and interview with nearly 20 people in Montgomery.

Although Sealy didn’t expect to be selected as Teacher of the Year, her son, Alex, had faith in her every step of the way.

“He has been behind me with this from day one,” Sealy said.

Alex said his mom kept saying “if I win,” and he kept saying “when you win.”

“She was saying that she had gone far enough, and I kept telling her she was going to keep going,” Alex said.

She said it’s nice to be recognized and is honored to have been chosen, but she feels any other teacher could fill her shoes.

“You know, every teacher in Alabama, whether you’re elementary or secondary works hard every day,” Sealy said. “Every teacher loves their children.”

“This is not an 8-to-5 job. How many teachers lay in bed and think about a child in their (class)room? That’s the kind of life we lead. We’re never off work.”

Sealy said no matter where a teacher is, even during summer vacation, that teacher is thinking about the children in their classroom.

“It’s a never-ending job,” Sealy said. “Even though we’re not physically here, we’re always thinking about the children and how we can reach each one of them. It’s a very challenging job.”

Sealy said two characteristics needed to do well at such a challenging job are energy and motivation, and lots of it.

Sealy said she thinks the energy and motivation she brings to the classroom is what makes her teaching unique.

“What I love to do is motivate the children, and I try to make it fun,” Sealy said.

She said she can remember when she was a student and being bored in the classroom, plugging away at worksheets.

“Now we’re trying to get them up out of their seats and moving,” Sealy said.

Sealy offered several examples of how she gets her students out of their seats. She said when she was teaching them about worms, she would have them burrow back to their seats or wiggle like a worm.

Sealy’s face brightened when she remembered a favorite of hers.

“The fun one that’s so much fun that I made up is we do the Macarena counting by five,” Sealy said. “That is so much fun, they love that.”

She also made up a cheer for the children to help them count their quarters. “25, 50, 75, a dollar. We like quarters, so let’s give a holler. Yay!’” Sealy cheered.

It’s things like that, Sealy said, that make learning memorable and fun.“They’re kids,” Sealy said. “They don’t get to play enough.”

Sealy said part of the inspiration for her fun teaching style comes from the children in her class. She also said a lot of times, ideas just pop into her head while she’s standing in front of the class teaching.

“I can’t tell you what I do,” Sealy said. “I can write any lesson plan in the world but until I’m up teaching it, ideas just come to me.”

She said one day she was teaching the class about fractions and how to “flip-flop” the numbers in the fraction when an idea came to her.

“I had flip-flops on that day, and I flipped my flip-flop up and hit myself in the head and said ‘see what happens when you flip-flop?’” Sealy said. “It’s funny how they remember little things like that, but I can’t plan stuff like that.”

It’s the little things that took Sealy all the way to the state level to be awarded Teacher of the Year, going farther than any other teacher at Newton has ever gone.

Suellen Brazil, principal at J. Larry Newton, said everyone is very excited about and proud of Sealy.

“She is a very passionate, energetic teacher who works each day to provide the strongest instruction so the students can have the highest amount of success,” Brazil said.

Sealy said she still feels today like anybody could have received this honor.

“Anybody could be sitting in my shoes right now,” Sealy said. “I believe there are lots of teachers that are incredible that need to be recognized throughout Alabama.

“I can tell you right here at this school there are some amazing teachers and I’m really glad Newton is getting recognized for their efforts, because this is an awesome school.”