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Mon, May 20

Q&A with Verde Valley Teacher of the Week Chrystal Plapp

A long time has passed since a young Chrystal Plapp taught her stuffed animals, her cat, and the lizards who sat attentively in her yard. VVN/Bill Helm

A long time has passed since a young Chrystal Plapp taught her stuffed animals, her cat, and the lizards who sat attentively in her yard. VVN/Bill Helm

COTTONWOOD – The most diminutive of pupils filled her first classroom what seems to be a lifetime ago.

She too was small, Chrystal Plapp was, as the young child even then wanted to be a teacher.

“As a young child, I would teach my stuffed animals, and on the rare occasion that I could capture my pet cat and dress her up, I would add her to my classroom and lessons,” said Plapp, second grade teacher at Cottonwood’s American Heritage Academy.

Class was almost always held outdoors, she said, an opportunity to include a lizard or two in her collection of students.

As she looks back, Plapp can also see the origins of her love of science.

It’s been 32 years since Plapp first taught for a living.

At American Heritage Academy the past 10 years, the school’s principal said recently that his first week on the job he “knew that she had it.”

 “Her commitment to the classroom and to her kids is what separates her,” said Eric Evans, the school’s principal. “Ms. Plapp genuinely cares for and loves her students. Her classroom management skills and ability to keep and hold such young kids’ attention is like no other. Her commitment to AHA and its students, her loyalty, is like no one else.”

Plapp is also “always so willing to assist fellow colleagues,” Evans said. But that’s just how his second grade teacher is.

“If I had to pick the single most thing that I like about teaching, I believe I would choose the true relationships that happen on a school campus,” said Plapp.

“These relationships are between teacher and administration, co-workers and of course students.

“As I arrive on campus and walk through the gate each morning, I am greeted by warm hugs, shouts and waves from the children and warm smiles from co-workers.

“When relationships are this strong, only success can follow.”

Verde Valley Newspapers: Tell us about your teaching style.

Chrystal Plapp: “Pinpointing my teaching style would lean toward a mixture of classical education and STEM or STEAM. Classical being the exposure to many different learning styles and strategies, with the emphasis on being exposed to different things. That way the student can own the one or ones that work for the individual student.

“Along with exposure to different ways to learn comes the ideas to explore a few in depth or to mastery if the individual student chooses to follow that path. Whereas STEAM is a close relation to PBL – problem based learning – where the student uses many different materials to explore and create their learning outcome.

“Basically my teaching style is helping each student find how they learn best and then applying it to learning through often vigorous hands-on classroom activities. My classroom is a busy, collaborative and active classroom.

VVN: Tell us something notable about your career.

Plapp: “In 2010, I was nominated for Yavapai County Teacher of the Year. It was certainly an amazing honor and a fun, vigorous process to go through. At the end of the day, I wasn’t the winner but what an incredible night filled with accomplishments and remarkable teachers”

VVN: Do you have a favorite quote or saying?

Plapp: “’It’s a good day to have a good day,’ as I tell my students. As long as we have done some math, reading and writing, been kind to someone and had a little fun, we’ve had a good day.”

VVN: Is there anything you dislike about teaching?

Plapp: “I always want to give more, but my resources are limited. In this instance, namely time. If I only had more clock hours in each day to service the struggling reader or help the homeless child complete their homework …”

VVN: Tell us something about you that most people don’t know.

Plapp: “I did my student teaching in Sembach, Germany on an American Airforce base.

“At the end of my training there, I found out that I had been transferred to Okinawa, Japan to continue to teach with the military … I eventually applied to American Heritage Academy and here I found the ‘love of my life’ school.

“I am honored that I can work at a school that parallels my personal life.

“This a place where I can support and encourage community service and leaderships skills as well as set the students up to strive for their personal best academically.

 -- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42

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