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Learning goes on for top teacher
By KENT FISCHER
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 27, 2000
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Kindergarten teacher Linda Gordon often acts as if her 20th year in the classroom were her first.
She still slips into goofy characters, like "Professor Addy" when she leads a lesson in addition. Like most rookie teachers, Gordon still has anxious dreams about school. She had one Thursday night, in fact, just hours after she was named Pasco County's Teacher of the Year. Gordon dreamed she was giving a reading lesson with big, green, monster-like fingers.
Despite her experience -- and her top teaching award -- Gordon isn't shy about acknowledging that she still is learning, trying to master her craft.
"I'm not the type of person who likes to do the same things all the time," said Gordon, who teaches at James Marlowe Elementary. "I change my lessons. I've taught different grades. I try to do a lot of creative, hands-on activities."
After 14 years in a traditional classroom, Gordon went back to college. She earned a special education certificate and taught struggling students for four years, an experience that helped her immensely when she went back to a traditional classroom two years ago.
"It's helped me identify kids' needs earlier," said Gordon, who was a finalist for the top teaching award in 1995. "And I have different teaching techniques that I can use now to help students."
Marlowe principal Terri Mutell said Gordon's creative teaching is among her strongest attributes, but added that she also admired Gordon's calm demeanor.
"She's very caring and very nurturing, but she has a wonderfully calm personality and that's a wonderful trait when you're with 26 kindergarteners all day," Mutell said. "I've never seen her lose it. She has more patience than most people I've met."
Born in New Jersey, Gordon, 42, moved with her parents to Pasco County when she was a senior in high school. Her parents taught in Pasco -- mom at Mittye P. Locke Elementary, dad at Hudson High. She now lives in Palm Harbor with her husband, Edward, and son Jonathan.
Gordon graduated from Gulf High School and, after attending the University of South Florida, taught alongside her mother and sister-in-law at Locke. Her mother has since retired but helps out in Gordon's classroom twice a week.
For the most part, Gordon's Teacher of the Year award was lost on her 5- and 6-year-old students. One pig-tailed girl, however, bounced into class Friday morning, pointed at Gordon and announced: "You're the Teacher of the Year!"
A boy sitting nearby cocked his head and chimed in, "No, you're not. You're the teacher of the students!"
Gordon hugged them both.
- Times staff writer Kent Fischer covers education in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6241. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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