University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) alumna Alison Grizzle, Ed.D., has been named Alabama’s Teacher of the Year. The Jackson-Olin High School math teacher received her master’s degree from the UAB School of Education in 1999 and credits UAB, in part, for her success.
“At UAB, I learned how to effectively plan, connect with technology and engage students in the learning process,” said Grizzle, a national board certified teacher.
“We are so very proud of Dr. Grizzle,” said School of Education Dean Deborah Voltz., Ed.D. “She exemplifies all that a teacher should be.”
For the next year, Grizzle will serve as the spokesperson and representative for Alabama teachers, and she is the state’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year.
Grizzle has been teaching students in the Ensley/Pratt City area for 14 years and sees the Teacher of the Year honor as a chance to give her students and Birmingham City Schools a voice.
“Here I am at Birmingham City, and we are finally at the table,” she said. “I want to tell our story, how policies affect us. I have to speak for us.”
Grizzle’s workday begins at 7:30 a.m. and ends between 5 and 6 p.m. Before and after school, she opens her classroom to students who need tutoring and homework help.
On a recent Friday evening, she sat in the hallway at the Lincoln Professional Development Center waiting for some of her students to finish an advanced placement statistics exam. Her students’ eyes widen when they saw her. They ran to Grizzle and gave her a bear hug, grateful that she had prepared them.
“My kids can explain a null and alternative hypothesis,” she said with a smile. “They can get a P value, interpret data and tell you what it means.”
Grizzle is a living witness of the successes in urban schools that have been labeled “failing,” she said.
During her Teacher of the Year interview, Grizzle came to a crossroads. When asked certain questions to which she could have either taken a “Ms. America approach” or told the real-life stories of her students and her district, she spoke her truth.
“As we look at defining schools, many aren’t failing; they are moving and thriving,” Grizzle told them. “In the past, the system has not created the opportunity to measure growth; they measure an arbitrary mark. It does not take into account growth or student disability.”
“I can move a child from zero to 400 on the graduation exam, but you want me to tell that child that he or she is failing,” she said. “I am not going to do that. I need to lift that child up and tell them we are almost home.”
As for being a model teacher, Grizzle said it is a team effort.
“I stand on the shoulders of giants,” she said. “I have a wonderful math department and teachers.”
Grizzle wants to do more.
“I never think that what I do is enough,” she said. “If you are a good teacher, you will never leave here satisfied. I just strive to do better than I did the day before and the period before.”