“People may call me strict. But, I always say I am ‘firm but fair,’” said Woodlawn School 1st grade teacher Lionel Clegg.
He was selected by OnPoint Community Credit Union as Educator of the Year for elementary school teachers. Along with bragging rights, the honor pays his mortgage for an entire year. “
In class, I ham around. The kids know when we can joke and have fun, but they also know when I am serious and need them to be more attentive.”
But it goes much deeper than that.
“I believe that we, as adults, often hinder our kids’ potential because we fail to see all that they are capable of doing,” Lionel explained. “As an educator, I take that task to heart and strive to get my kids to recognize their true potential.
“I have always been in the primary grades because I pride myself in starting the kids off with a strong foundation,” Lionel said.
Fiona, now a 5th grader, nominated Lionel with the help of her parents. She was his student four years ago. “I think he was good as my teacher for 1st grade because he really set me up for success,” Fiona said.
Lionel has spent 23 years as a teacher at Woodlawn. He’s actually an alumnus of the school and, while he was an undergrad at Portland State University, he volunteered at Woodlawn in his nephew’s classes.
As soon as Lionel received his masters’ degree, Woodlawn principal at the time, Linda Harris, advised him to apply for a third grade position there.
Mrs. Manyongai-Jones, his fourth grade teacher, is one of the chief reasons he became an educator, according to Lionel. “She was the first teacher of color I had, and she really taught me to have a sense of pride about being an African American.
“My sixth grade teacher at Whitaker Middle School, Mr. Williams, gave me that first conversation about having to go above and beyond since I was a young African American man,” he added.
“One of my favorite books to share with my students is an old classic by Shel Silverstein called ‘The Giving Tree.’”
The story is simple, but drives home the act of giving one’s self to another in a relationship.
“This book is about unconditional love,” Lionel pointed out. “After reading the book, I always have a conversation with my students about who this tree reminds them of in their lives.
“It really is a great talk every time I share this with the kids.”
Tamara Anne Fowler is Edit Kitten, a writer with 20-plus years of experience offering a softer, gentler approach to editing and coaching. Her personal editors – Armani, Max Factor and Spicey’D – are also her cats. Visit her at EditKitten.comor contact her at Tamara@EditKitten.com