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Monday profile: Joyce Craig

Submitted by on 1, September 29, 2008 – 10:45 amNo Comment

Joyce Craig has a lot of history with Haight School. Not only has she taught at the school for 23 years, but she was a student there too. And she’s not the only one: Both her mother and her grandmother went to Haight. “I have pretty strong roots here,” said Craig, who grew up around the corner from the school. “I don’t think I would be as happy anywhere else as I am here.”

In addition to teaching third grade, Craig has set up a science lab in her classroom for kindergarten through third grades to use each week. And she teaches an after-school science program for grades four and five. And she’s established a garden lab. Perhaps, then, it’s no wonder that PBS noticed her. She’ll be featured on the public television station’s Quest program, in an episode about science in the schools to be aired sometime in October.

So you were the third generation of your family to attend Henry Haight?
My mother went to school here K-8, and then they moved to Orinda. And then my grandma attended here. They came down through Canada and they landed here, and she attended grades 4 through 8.

Why did you decide to come back to teach there?
My grandmother told me when I was applying for jobs, ‘Well dear, there’s only one place you need to apply, and that’s Haight School.’ I applied to a lot of places, and this was the only place I needed to apply. She was right.

What’s it like teaching at the same school you attended?
It’s really quite different because this isn’t the building I attended. It was really hard at the start when I was working as a colleague with teachers who had been my teachers. All of a sudden you find yourself a colleague to these people, and it was first name, instead of Mister or Miss. I had one teacher who told me – it was my first year of teaching – she told me halfway through the year that I could call her by her first name. The first thing I did when I got home was to call my mom (to tell her), ‘Miss Williams said I could call her by her first name. She asked what is it, and I said, ‘I don’t know, but I can call her by it.’ It was quite a change.

How is the school different from when you attended?
It’s gotten much gentler. It used to be a very tough school. I see the kids as being much more gentle now than perhaps they were when I was here. I think that has to do with not having grades 6, 7 and 8 anymore.

So you were recently featured on PBS?
We’re going to be. The Quest program on PBS came in. They’re doing a series on science in the schools. So they videotaped in here, they did an interview with me and they videotaped my setting up the science materials. On the second day they came in and videotaped my kids doing the garden lab with the garden lab teacher, and then doing science with me. It’s supposed to air at the end of October, we don’t have an exact date yet.

Tell us about your efforts to bring science into the classroom.
I’m underhandedly trying to make sure science gets taught at all the grade levels. Most of the K-3s are working on the physical sciences. There’s also the garden lab, so we get life science through that as well. We have a garden out back behind the portables where we’re growing vegetables and things.

You also run an after-school science program for fourth and fifth graders?
It’s every Tuesday for an hour after school. It’s only for 20 students. I sent out the applications and by 8:15 the next morning, I had a waiting list.

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