When you walk into first-grade teacher Julie Cleave’s classroom at Hilda M. Hallman Elementary, you would never know that it is among the most challenged schools in Oregon. Cleave works tirelessly to provide the stability and creativity that her students need to get their young lives off to the best possible start, providing students with the tools and environment they need to experience success.
Seventy-four percent of Hallman students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and difficulties such as poverty, homelessness or an incarcerated parent are not uncommon. But Cleave is not deterred and meets children where they are, academically and developmentally. She helps them to exceed all expectations whether they have special needs, are English language learners, or just need an academic boost. Using a workshop model in her classroom, Cleave provides direction and guidance while students work the curriculum and learn independence, strong study habits and mastery of the content.
Although students often enter her class performing below grade-level, by the end of the school year most are reading and doing math at their proper grade level. This sets them on a path of ongoing success and gives them confidence that they can learn and achieve.
Cleave goes above and beyond in other ways, too. She often attends her students’ birthday parties and sporting events. When she noticed that many girls in her school were struggling with self-esteem issues, she organized Hallman Girls Running Club Girls, a program to build self-esteem and a commitment to exercise. Literally going the extra mile, Cleave trained to do a 5K with them. She paired each child with a “buddy” and coordinated volunteers and donations of running shoes and clothes.
Respected by colleagues, Cleave is recognized as a leader who helps create an atmosphere of success for everyone in the building. She is a sought-after mentor and valued for her ability to be kind and fair when making decisions or giving counsel. After serving as an instructional coach for a time, Cleave elected to return to the classroom because she missed interactions with students—and her students are glad that she did.
“We have an opportunity as teachers to make learning meaningful for every child. One positive learning experience can unlock a cycle of..." (read more)
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