Springfield – Metamora Elementary School science teacher Jo Crow says that she “does not carry over well in the written word – I am more like an experience than an essay.”
Yet the words about her inspirational commitment and amazing dedication to teaching paint such a vibrant picture that being a student in Jo Crow’s class must be an unbelievable experience.
That is why Crow, a 19-year veteran teacher who came to the profession later in life, is the 2000-2001 Illinois Teacher of the Year. She was picked from among 10 outstanding finalists for the Illinois State Board of Education’s Those Who Excel awards program. Crow and about 280 other excellent educators, school staff, parents and community volunteers were honored October 14th as part of the 27th-annual event.
The Teacher of the Year will spend the second semester of the 2000-2001 school year speaking statewide at teacher workshops, educational conferences and civic and community meetings. The Teacher of the Year will also receive a lifetime tuition waiver to state universities and a one-year paid leave to pursue graduate work.
The winner also represents Illinois at the NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama and in the National Teacher of the Year program sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Scholastic, Inc.
“Teachers like Jo Crow are the reason I am proud to be in education,” said State Superintendent of Education Glenn W. McGee. “Rarely do you see such a combination of vision, dedication, enthusiasm and genuine love for children,” he said.
Although she came to the teaching profession via an indirect route, teaching has really been Crow’s lifelong love. “As far back as I can remember, I have been teaching. Once something had been learned, I had to pass it along to someone else whether they seemed willing or not,” Crow said.
Ironically, Crow sidestepped the possibility of teaching while still in high school, claiming she didn’t at that time have enough patience. But in college, she served as an undergraduate and graduate teaching assistant with college freshmen. She also started what would be years of teaching Bible school at church.
Professionally, she started as a chemistry lab technician at the University of Nebraska Medical School, and then at the Veterans Administration Hospital, both in Omaha. She later worked with separating lysine from corn at the USDA Agriculture Lab and coauthored two professional papers.
Motherhood ensued in 1969 and – not uncoincidentally, Crow said – she found the patience she had lacked to be a teacher. Following about six years of volunteering as a classroom assistant in her kids’ school in Metamora, Crow returned to school and earned her teaching certification in 1981.
“She not only teaches, but also lives with a commitment to helping us see the world as a wondrous learning experience to be investigated, not destroyed,” wrote Frank Rink, her superintendent in his nomination of Crow for the Those Who Excel award.
Crow has been a fearless innovator, Rink wrote, unafraid to try new learning strategies and teaching environments – whatever it took to get and foster her students’ interest in science and enhance their achievement.
“She is truly passionate about the power and possibilities of science,” Rink wrote. “But more importantly, she is dedicated to the concept that all students can and will succeed with science.”
To that end, Crow has created and sponsored a long list of science-related clubs and activities for her students, including a Young Astronauts Club, Astronomy Club, Science Club, Photography Club, Rocket Club, Beam Me Up, Scotty Study Sessions, Science Fairs and week-long Outdoor Education Units.
She worked briefly at the grade school level before taking her current assignment teaching science to 7th and 8th graders when the position opened in summer 1981. “My field, and back to my first love – teaching something new to someone else,” Crow said.
A raft of teaching honors have decorated her teaching tenure, including Teacher of the Year awards from Sigma Chi in 1998, the Woodford County Conservation Association (1999) and the Illinois Groundwater Committee (1999.)