TULSA teacher of the year plans for summer

Tuesday, May 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Some Oklahoma students have started summer vacation, but several Tulsa-area school districts are in session till the end of the week. Tulsa Public Schools' Teacher of the Year is winding up her 23rd year in the classroom.

KOTV's Glenda Silvey talked with Debbie Givens about the career she wouldn't trade for any other. Carver Middle School teacher Debbie Givens says her 7th grade year was the worst of her life. That's one thing that makes her sensitive to the needs of her 7th grade English students. While some educators question how much actual learning can occur during the tumultuous middle school years, Givens loves the age. "I think they're very creative and I definitely think they can learn, and I think they take things very seriously and to heart."

Many of Givens' students remember her for introducing them to novels like "The Outsiders," and "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” literature they can relate to. She and her classes just completed a unit on the Holocaust that involved a year long correspondence with Israeli students they met via teleconference. Students give Mrs. Givens a top grade. Preston Clark, Student: "We're learning how to write creatively and have creative discussions." Liz Polcha, Student: "She really has a lot of respect for students."

Respect for students is one reason why Givens believes she rarely has discipline problems. She expects it in return. Carver's Principal says Givens has a special understanding for adolescents and a love for literature. Cleta Driver, Carver Principal: "She's especially talented at bringing literature alive for students that deals with diversity and real life issues." Givens says the close of another school year is always bittersweet. That it's hard to say good-bye to her students. She wants them to leave her classroom feeling valued. "Not just every day, but at the end of the school year, just knowing that they have experienced success, and they have potential."

Nurturing that potential is what Debbie Givens has wanted to do since she was 12, and she'd never want to be anywhere but in the classroom. Givens is one of 40 teachers nationwide chosen to attend a program for Educators of the Holocaust in Poland and Israel this summer. Carver's exchange with the Israeli students recently won the "Innovation in Education Award" from Sister Cities International.