By RENEE FITE
Soothing classical music welcomes Judy Croman’s first-grade students to class at Cherokee Elementary School. She greets each student with a big smile and hug as they enter.
Croman believes teaching younger students allows her a better opportunity to really get to know each child.
“I absolutely love teaching the first grade. It is a critical year for my students,” she said. “It is also a time when students are very inquisitive and want to learn as much as they can.”
After graduating from Clinton High School, in Clinton, N.C., Croman continued her education at North Carolina Central University in Durham, earning early childhood and elementary education certifications.
She has taught for 34 years, and her career has encompassed a number of grade levels, including kindergarten, fourth and fifth grades. She has taught math science and social studies, along with gifted and talented programs.
She began teaching in Oklahoma 12 years ago, and this is her sixth year at Cherokee Elementary.
“I have always loved working with children,” she said. “I began working with young children as a teenager by teaching Sunday school, Bible school, tutoring in high school, and through my work with 4-H.”
Love and respect are important aspects of classroom ethics for Croman.
“It is important for my students to leave with the knowledge they are valuable and unique individuals with a purpose,” she said, “They are loved and respected by me every day without question, which makes learning new skills a natural part of our time together.”
Croman treats her students like family.
“I let my students know every day that they’re are brilliant ‘Croman Cruisers’ and they can accomplish anything,” she said. “I know students work well when they feel like they are a part of a team and can share in the ownership of our work.”
Croman was raised around teachers.
“I [grew up] in a neighborhood with teachers and principals,” said Croman. “During that time, my life was impacted by the way these key figures embraced the community and had high expectations for everyone. I was truly amazed by the way they encouraged the youth to not only set goals, but took the time to show us strategies to reach them.”
Two teachers especially had an impact on her.
“There were two very special people who inspired me. My mother’s best friend and our neighbor, Mrs. Hazel Colwell taught high school. I remember how active she was in the community and how compassionate she was toward each student,” Croman said. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher like her.”
The other influence was her third-grade teacher, Sally Foster.
“She had a way of making every day an adventure,” Croman said. “She made every child in her class feel like he or she was the most special of them all. That feeling transcended into my adult life and teaching philosophy.”
Croman believes it’s important to not only be knowledgeable in the field of instruction, but to also take time with students.
“Knowledge is a powerful tool, but it can be enhanced by love, respect, fairness, and commitment to all children,” she said. “If you have these qualities, you have the ability to be a great educator.”
Croman enjoys every aspect of teaching.
“I enjoy being with special people, like-minded people, who share my passion for teaching,” she said. “My co-workers are ‘doers’ and spend nights and weekends at school to make sure everything they plan and do will benefit the students.”
Croman said Tahlequah Public Schools offers opportunities to its faculty to constantly improve, both personally and professionally.
She encourages parents is to be a part of the education process, at home and in the classroom, by keeping in touch with the teachers and listening to their children.
“I recommend parents stay involved in their children’s education no matter what the age or grade level,” she said. “Parents should communicate with teachers frequently. Let your child[ren] know how important they are amidst these hectic times.”
She encourages new teachers to be patient.
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