JAY — Annette Girardin makes it a point to challenge all of her high school students to do the best they are able to do.
She tries to teach a level above them.
“Technically, if you teach a level above the kids, you actually bring the bottom up,” the 32-year veteran educator said Thursday.
She also makes herself available to give students extra help, but she makes it their responsibility to ask for it, Girardin, 53, of Jay said.
She has been known to stay until 5 p.m. to give kids extra help. She even comes back to the classroom after she has gone home, if she has made a plan to work with a student after a practice or game.
She makes sure they don't have an excuse that they couldn’t get extra help. She’s willing to give it if they are making the extra effort, Girardin said.
She has always taught math, first at Dexter Regional High School for 15 years, then Jay High School, which is now Spruce Mountain High School North.
This year, Girardin is teaching advanced placement calculus, precalculus and advanced trigonometry.
“I’ve liked math all my life,” Girardin said.
She considered teaching physical education when she was younger because she loved sports and thought if she was a gym teacher, she could play sports all the time. Then she learned that a physical educator also taught dance and that was the end of that.
Girardin said she comes from a family strong in math, including two nephews who are math teachers.
“Numbers have always been my thing,” she said. “As a kid, other kids would be reading. I didn’t like reading, so I did math.”
Her parents wanted all seven of their children to go to college.
“It was expected,” she said. “Not doing homework was not an issue.”
Her parents made sure they had a structured life that included doing homework, she said.
She tries to share the importance of education with her students.
“I encourage kids to take as high a class as they can,” Girardin said. “To me, the grade isn’t as important as what you learn.” Though obviously your college people are concerned about grades, she said.
A number of her students who have taken her classes have gone on to become engineers.
Former student Devin Rose, who is a junior in an engineering program, nominated Girardin to be the University of Maine Pulp and Paper Foundation Teacher of the Year for 2011. Girardin and Sasha Alcott of Bangor High School were recognized as those teachers this past spring.
Students are asked to recommend teachers who have influenced them and made a difference in their lives.
Girardin was also recently recognized by sentiment from the Maine Legislature for her accomplishments in education.
At one point, she said, she thought about getting out of education. But she took an interest survey and it told her she should be a teacher. Another indicator also pointed in the same direction. So she stayed in education.
“I like kids. I don’t necessarily like the politics around it,” she said. “I like high school because they are young adults and starting to develop their own personality.”
The hardest part of her job, Girardin said, is trying to teach students not to memorize formulas and other math-related information.
“I show them where things come from,” she said.