Redwood City teacher receives top honor

Shannon Cody got word recently that she’d won a top honor — the fourth-grade teacher was named San Mateo County’s Teacher of the Year.

The 39-year-old Wisconsin native teaches at Clifford Elementary School in Redwood City and first came to the district 13 years ago.

Cody said she was both surprised by and appreciative of the award last week.

“I don’t think of it as just me,” she said. “I think of it as recognition of all the teachers, students and parents at Clifford.”

Cody said she’s always taught fourth grade classes because she “loves who fourth graders are.”

“They’re at a really good place in life,” she said. “They’re mature but still very naïve in a lot of ways.”

Teaching doesn’t come without its challenges. Long division skills are often among the toughest math for her students to grasp, she said. But when they learn how to apply division, multiplication, subtraction and addition to the long division process, it’s a good feeling, she said.

“They learn how to persevere,” she said. “They’re not going to get it overnight. But if they keep trying they will get it and when they do, it’s good to see.”

Clifford Elementary has 795 students and 32 teachers. Principal Phil Lind, who nominated Cody for the award in February, said that while he appreciates all of his teachers, Cody stands out for her leadership and the relationships she builds with each student.

“She’s very welcoming and encouraging with the kids. She thinks globally, not about her own classroom,” he said. “She understands how decisions need to be made with input and she really thinks about the whole school.”

Peter Burchyns, from the county’s Office of Education, said he couldn’t release the total number of nominations his office received, citing board policy.

Nominees are asked to fill out an application that includes writing seven essays on topics ranging from parent involvement to the philosophy of teaching. A panel of judges selects the winner, Burchyns said.

The county award isn’t necessarily Cody’s last. As a teacher of the year, she will be the only contender from San Mateo County schools in the running for the California Teacher of the Year — along with other instructors chosen by counties throughout the state.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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