Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

Spotlight: Lindsey Bibler (SC '15)

March 2, 2016

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Lindsey Bibler (SC '15) once told a teacher she was thinking about a career in the classroom only to get a cranky earful of discouragement. Undeterred, she became a teacher and now makes sure students know how lucky she feels to be an educator. She received her Milken Educator Award at South Florence High School (where she teaches and, as it happens, graduated herself as valedictorian) on February 9, 2016.

Milken Family Foundation: How did you end up in education?

Lindsey Bibler: As a child, I felt immense respect for my teachers. I saw them as competent, caring, and hard-working. My parents always held these traits in high regard, so I knew teachers must be doing something right. I have wanted to teach for as long as I can remember. I still have an autobiographical picture book I made in first grade where I drew myself behind a desk with an apple sitting on the corner. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to teach until I took Advanced Placement Calculus in high school and fell in love with the content.

MFF: What was your first job?

Lindsey: Game room attendant at the Florence Family YMCA. That first job taught me that every child is different and every child wants to feel special. Those lessons have made me a more caring and attentive teacher.

MFF: Who was your most memorable teacher?

Lindsey: If you've known me for longer than 20 minutes, you know that I want to be just like Sherry Young. She was my pre-calculus and calculus teacher in high school. As a student in her class, I was in awe of her natural talent for teaching. She was intelligent, spirited, and driven. Even if you hated math, you loved Mrs. Young!

MFF: Tell us about your first class.

Lindsey: The only thing I remember about my first class is standing in front of a room full of freshmen thinking to myself, "I'm the adult in this room!" I felt as though someone else was supposed to walk in at any moment and take the lead.

There is a particular lesson that sticks out in my mind from my first year of teaching. I was teaching students how to solve a literal equation for a specified variable, and they were struggling. Then, on the fly, I grabbed a piece of paper and asked the students what it was. After several correct responses, I crunched the piece of paper into a tight ball and asked them again. "OH, I get it!" erupted Colby, and then came more light bulbs. They saw that although we were changing the equation, it was still the same in another way. I felt a rush that I hadn't felt as a teacher before, and it was a fantastic feeling.

In my first year of teaching, my dad passed away from a sudden heart attack. Not only was that the hardest moment in my career, it was also the hardest in my life. My grief seemed insurmountable, and I had no idea how I'd be able to pull myself together when I returned to class. I came in early that first morning back to prepare, and I saw a giant banner on my wall. All of the students had signed it with messages of love and encouragement. A few had even stayed after school on their own time to make it. This was the first of many moments when I realized teaching is more than a job.

One thing that took me by surprise as a first-year teacher was the time it took to do the job the way I thought it should be done. Sometimes, this still amazes me! I could work all day long, all week long and still not have enough time to explore every resource, grade every paper, tutor every student, collaborate with every peer, etc. As many hours as I have under my belt, I always feel like I need more time.

MFF: A student is thinking about a career in education. What do you say?

Lindsey: When I was in college, I worked at Old Navy. I was ringing up a woman's items and chatting with her about school. I told her I wanted to be a math teacher. Her face fell as she recounted all the reasons this was a bad idea. She herself was a teacher! So, when I encounter young adults who want to become educators, my first reaction is always one of elation and pride. I tell them how much I love what I do and how lucky I am to get paid to have fun.

MFF: What impact do you think your Milken Educator Award presentation had on students at your school?

Lindsey: I hope that students saw teachers in a new light. I hope that they viewed us as hard-working professionals worthy of being celebrated.

MFF: What's your favorite time of the school day?

Lindsey: Early in the morning before students and most of the other teachers arrive. It's quiet and calm. I have time to collect my thoughts and reflect on the day before.

MFF: If someone gave you a million dollars for your school, what would you do with it?

Lindsey: There are three areas on which I'd focus: safety, technology, and competency. I'd give the school a complete makeover to update older parts of our building and get rid of the mobile units we've added to house our ever-growing student population. Every student would have a laptop, and we would use technology for collaboration and formative assessments. I'd make sure that teachers had the funds they needed to attend meaningful professional development opportunities that made them excited about teaching and trying new things.

MFF: When you retire, what do you want your former students and colleagues to say about you?

Lindsey: "You inspired me to work longer, study harder, and never give up. You made me believe that I could learn anything as long as I was willing to put in the time and effort."

MFF: If you hadn't chosen a career in education, what would you be doing right now?

Lindsey: As a high school student, I briefly entertained the idea of going into medicine, but that was mostly because medicine was what my peers wanted to pursue. I'm an educator in my bones; I was meant for this job. I have no idea what I'd be doing if I wasn't a teacher.

MFF: Finish this sentence: "I know I’m succeeding as an educator when..."

Lindsey: "...I can turn 'When am I ever going to use this?' into 'How cool is this?!' "

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