MELBA, Idaho — This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.
Courtney Linker didn’t always think she wanted to be a teacher. But you’d never know that sitting in her seventh-grade math class.
As she stands in front of rows of enthusiastic hands waving in the air, belonging to children desperate to share how much a dinner bill with an 18% tip amounts to, it’s hard to picture Linker in any other profession.
Perhaps that is why Melba Superintendent Sherry Ann Adams recommended Linker apply for Curriculum Associates’ Extraordinary Educators program.
Linker, who has been teaching at Melba Junior High for three years, ultimately took Adams up on the recommendation and was rewarded a spot in the program’s 2023 class. She is the fourth teacher from Idaho named to the program since it began in 2020. And this year, she is the only teacher from Idaho to be selected for the program.
“It's a really nice compliment when somebody thinks that you're worthy of applying for something like that, so that in itself is a little motivation or inspiration for it,” Linker said.
Curriculum Associates is a nationwide company that provides curriculum, visual aides and supplemental activities to school districts, like the Melba School District. Its programs are used in more than half of Idaho schools, according to a press release.
The Extraordinary Educators program selects 30 teachers from across the nation and provides them with professional development opportunities, chances to connect and collaborate with other educators in the program, and a leadership summit in Boston in July. Linker was selected to this program for exhibiting best in-class use of the company’s curriculum materials, per a press release.
“Every year as I get more comfortable with it, I can fit more of what they have in there and kind of utilize the data that it provides a little bit better,” Linker said. “I love this curriculum. I love the pacing of it. I love the content. I like how they introduce concepts and then it's not a ‘one-and-done.’ There's several days that you're spending teaching things but in different formats or different levels.”
She said the company provides so much content and options that she sometimes has a hard time knowing what to pick and choose. She’s hoping this year will give her the opportunity to learn more about how to effectively use the curriculum materials and data-gathering tools.
Another reason Linker said she applied to the program was her desire for continued growth as an educator. She said she is looking forward to the learning and training opportunities the Extraordinary Educators program will give her.
“After you're in something for a certain period of time, you think about if you want to move, like go into administration or maybe try out a different area. I don't,” Linker said. “I love teaching, but I don't want to be stagnant either.”
This isn’t Linker’s first time seeking out education development opportunities. Last year she received a grant from Idaho CapEd Foundation for a project where she built an escape room for her students based on a book they were reading in English class. She has also participated in the i-STEM Summer Institute program on three different occasions.
Her love for learning is something she said she actively tries to pass along to her students. As they work on applying discounts and calculating percentages, Linker encourages them to use their knowledge to figure it out. She invites them to use whatever method works best for them.
“Mrs. Linker is awesome,” Melba Junior and Senior High School Principal Eric Forsgren said.
Forsgren has a son in one of Linker’s classes and said his son loves her. That seems to be the consensus of most of her students. After the bell rings to go to lunch, several of her students crowd around her to get in some non-math-related chatter.
Linker smiles and engages with them, just as she does during lessons. To her, both are equally important aspects of her teaching role.
“Before I started teaching, I vowed I'd never step into a junior high or middle school again in my life because it's a tough time in life,” Linker said.
But now, she values being able to help students not only grow academically, but also helping them as they go through challenging times.
“I love trying to be that positive influence or that person in their life that can help them — not just mathematically, not just academically — but in their social growth and just becoming citizens and humans,” Linker said. “I just want to be there as a positive role model and a guide essentially, help steer them on the right path so they can go pursue whatever they want to pursue and not have these walls built that are blocking it.”
This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.
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