Spotlight: Corrie Campbell (LA '22)March 13, 2023
For Corrie Campbell (LA ’22), success means instilling a love for reading and writing: “Creating lifelong learners helps their dreams come true.” Lowell Milken presented the third grade teacher with her Milken Award at Green T. Lindon Elementary in Lafayette Parish on January 25, 2023.
Milken Family Foundation: How did you end up in education?
Corrie Campbell (LA ’22): I wanted to influence kids and help children who didn’t have anyone in their corner. I thought I wanted to work with foster kids. My goal was to open my home and directly impact these types of children.
It was my aunt who eventually influenced me to become an educator. She taught at an inner city school in New Jersey, and I would hear countless stories of students who had rough home lives. It gave her great fulfillment to know she could use her classroom as a safe space to help encourage them throughout the day. I realized that while the work of the foster care system is important, it is also volatile because of the uncertainty. You don’t know how long a child in need will be in your life. As a teacher, I could have a greater impact on students by cultivating consistent and long-term day-to-day relationships.
Another factor that influenced me to become an elementary teacher was the ability to help students explore their options about the future. Through journaling and writing exercises, I could encourage students to dream and then challenge them to research and create plans to get there. These seeds of envisioning different futures change their life trajectory. As a teacher, not only can you encourage and influence the student in the present, but you also impact the student for life by helping them see and pursue their dreams.
MFF: Tell us about some of your favorite class social studies projects.
Corrie: I just love learning about history. One year I had a rather large number of students who were in special education, and the curriculum was very hard for them to understand. I knew I had to do things a little differently and brainstormed ways to make the curriculum come alive. At the time, we were learning the characteristics of a civilization, and each day we would act out one of the characteristics. I would come to school with props and everything and have the students act, draw or write it out. By the end, every single student knew all of the characteristics.
Another year I was teaching my students about government and the election process, so I ran a mock election. I divided the class into two groups and had each group come up with their party names. Students who wanted to run would deliver speeches and the party would vote on who they wanted to represent them in a primary. After the primary votes whoever won for their party would choose a vice president to run alongside them and worked together to campaign. We even had a mini debate, and then students gave their final speeches. I sectioned off part of the classroom to be the voting booth. Two students were in charge of checking to see that students met the “requirements to vote” — that they were at least eight years old, were in Ms. Campbell’s class, and had a valid school ID. Students wrote their votes on sticky notes and dropped them into the ballet box (also known as a tissue box). The votes were tallied and the winner was announced. The students loved this! It was a lot of fun to see them get really excited.
I also love to teach social studies like an exciting story. In college, I had a professor who taught history as if it were a novel. We couldn’t wait to hear what would happen next. I often ask students to envision themselves living during the time we’re studying. What would they do? How would they feel? What would it be like? This makes history come alive for them.
MFF: How was your first year of teaching?
Corrie: I started in the middle of the year at a very small country school. I had signed a one-year contract, so I knew I wasn’t staying. The teacher before me left in the middle of the year and when she left she completely cleared out the classroom. She even took the hooks off the walls. The classroom was completely stripped bare. I had one weekend to get set up for my first day.
I worked very long hours and was overwhelmed. It was partly my fault, as I wanted everything to be perfect. Luckily, I only had 13 third graders and it was a small school, which made it so much easier for me to transition. For my first year of teaching, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.
MFF: What do you like about working with elementary students?
Corrie: I love the excitement that students can bring. I love the times when I hear students talking about how much fun a lesson is, or how excited they get if they find a book that talks about the same topics we are learning in class. It is fun to think about creative ways to motivate students and it makes it so much fun when they experience success and are proud of themselves and each other. I believe third grade is the sweetest! The students are so encouraging of one another and it feels wonderful to see the students really grow.
MFF: Who are your role models?
Corrie: Many are fellow teachers who helped me become a better teacher daily. One such role model was my master teacher, Christina Hulin, who really poured into me. She always believed in me and encouraged me, especially during hard days when I didn’t think I would make it. She also was really influential during cluster meetings, when she modeled valuable ways to help our students grow. I really enjoyed her leadership because she was so encouraging and her door was always open to anything that was needed. I am the teacher I am today because of her.
Another educator and role model was Debbie LeBlanc, a dear friend who passed away earlier this year. She started teaching much later in life and came in with such zeal and passion. Together, we were the dream team! We were so in sync that students expected the exact same thing from each of us, and our expectations of them were the same. We would brainstorm different ways to reach the students by impacting their personal lives as well as helping them grow academically. We created some very fun themed activities that students could learn, and we would celebrate their successes. It was so wonderful to have a partner who was so supportive and also shared the same passion and excitement for the students.
I also love and enjoy following Wade and Hope King. They have fabulous ideas and make learning and education fun. They are truly inspiring!
MFF: How did you feel at your Milken Educator Award notification?
Corrie: I was so shocked! I kept telling myself not to cry or faint, over and over. I felt completely honored and humbled by it all. It is an absolute dream and I still need to pinch myself.
MFF: How did students respond to your Milken Award?
Corrie: The students were so excited and sweet, with such kind and encouraging words. Students from all grade levels were congratulating me for days and weeks afterwards. I also received so many notes and cards.
MFF: How do you define “success” for yourself, and for your students?
Corrie: Success for me is seeing students grow. I love to see where a student starts at the beginning of the year and measure how much they have grown. The kids feel great about themselves as well and are motivated to keep working hard. When a student develops a love for reading and learning, that’s also success. Creating a lifelong learner is definitely an accomplishment — that’s what helps their dreams come true.
MFF: What do you hope students remember from their time with you?
Corrie: I hope students remember that they are loved, valued, seen and heard. I want all students to know that they are very special human beings and are destined for greatness. I want them to believe in themselves and know that they have someone who is cheering them on and will always have an open door for future visits. I will always be excited to see them!
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