Molly Crankshaw, Burns Park Elementary third grade teacher

By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Eidtor

Molly Sykes Crankshaw was born and raised in Ionia, the daughter of the late Dr. Robert and Barbara Sykes. She attended Eastern Michigan University, where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

She and her husband, Bruce Crankshaw (Huron High School Class of 1976) live in Ann Arbor with their children David, a junior at Pioneer  High School, and Lilly, a sophomore at Community High. Crankshaw enjoys spending time with her family, attending Michigan Football games, gardening, and baking.

Crankshaw has been teaching at Burns Park Elementary for 30 years.

In the video below,  Crankshaw works with Josh Hines and his peer-to-peer mentor, Frances Brown, who applauds his progress.

What inspired you to become a teacher?  My elementary teachers at Jefferson Elementary in Ionia inspired me!  I had such great relationships with each of them. Mrs. Graham was my kindergarten teacher, and I had Miss Clements for both first and second grades.  Third grade I had Mr. Bartelt in the morning and Miss Truesock in the afternoon. Mrs. Burrows in fourth grade taught me how to play the autoharp, Mrs. Ransom was my fifth grade teacher with whom I’m Facebook friends today, and Mrs. Kortykowski in 6th grade use to sing with us all of the time.

Did you have a Plan B? Never gave it a second thought. I knew I wanted to be a teacher.  I would round up all of the neighborhood kids, bring them down to our Michigan dirt-floor basement and teach them in my “school.” My teachers would let me bring home extra worksheets to use. It was fun!

What do you love about what you do? I love everything! I love setting up my classroom in August.  I love to get in there as soon as my room is cleaned and rearranging, sorting, organizing, and preparing for the first day! I love the relationships I make with my students and their families.  I love mentoring new teachers and working with my colleagues. I just love it!

What if any changes have you seen in elementary students over the years? In general, children seem to be involved in so many activities. They are busy.  Busy in and out of school. There are a lot of opportunities for children.

How do you keep students engaged? I think I relate to the students. I try to keep things fresh. I stay on top of the latest trends, books, and technology.  I treat each child as if they were my own and treat them how I would want my children to be treated. I use humor and show them I care.  My students know that every day is a new day in our classroom.

What is your best memory of elementary school?  My best memories are of times with my friends. Class parties, Brownies, and school carnivals.  I treasure it all. I even saved and share with my own classes my valentines from second, third and fourth grades. I glued them in a flowery 70’s scrapbook. As I read them to my class each year, I tell a little bit about each of my classmates. Hashtag: memories.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? In my 30 years in AAPS, I have learned that teaching is the most important job you could have.  You have to be prepared and ready for each and every child, each and every day. Your students rely on you. You have to be a positive role model.  I have learned to be a lifelong learner. Curricula and instructional methods are always changing. I have to stay ahead of my students and their learning, although it’s great when we learn together.

Describe an average workday. My average workday starts early when I get myself ready, check my email, pack lunches, wake the kids, get everyone out the door, and arrive at Burns Park around 7:40.  I enjoy the quiet before everyone arrives, then teach all day. I usually have a meeting or event after school and arrive home by 6 p.m.  I make dinner, get my children started on homework, check email and Power School.  Correct papers. Read and relax. Prepare to do it all over again tomorrow.

LeeAnn Dickinson-Kelley, assistant superintendent of Instruction & Student Support Services,  say you have a special gift for working with children with autism. “Parents rave about her collaboration,” she says. Your thoughts?  One of my best experiences has been collaborating this year with the ASD special education team at Burns Park to help one of my students have a very successful third grade year. I have worked really hard to make sure this child is included in all that we do.  I have embraced this experience and continually find ways to make sure he can do it. I have never thought he can’t do something, rather, worked with the team to figure out how he would do it!

How have you changed since your first couple of years in the classroom?   I have probably changed my expectations for the students. Students are expected to know and be able to do so much more so much earlier.  I have changed how I deliver instruction. I teach using so much more technology and having students collaborating on assignments. Students have much more voice and choice in their education- which is a good thing.

What advice would you give to a first-year teacher? I would tell a first-year teacher to be fair, firm, friendly, and fun!  I would also say it is important to be flexible. Make sure you get to know your students and their families. Smile and make each day a new day!

You’re very active on Twitter. Why? What does this mean for your students and their families? I use Twitter to tell my story! I like to share the varied activities my class does throughout the day. It is one way for families to get a snapshot of their child’s day. I also use Twitter to connect with educators all over the world. I treat it as my personalized professional development.

Favorite websites:  Symbaloo, Kahoot, Pandora, and Amazon.

Most-used smartphone apps: I really like being able to ask Siri to do things for me such as setting an alarm, reminding me to go to the post office, or doing some math problem for me.  I also use Instagram, Facebook, and Power School. I am always checking up on my own children’s grades and assignments. They wish I would delete it.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager? Good old-fashioned paper and pencil. I have to keep lists of things I need to do or need to buy. There is satisfaction when I am able to cross something off my list!

Do you see a difference in your morning students versus the afternoon classes?  If so, how do you adjust to that? The afternoons just seem longer because most of our specials are in the morning and we have the early lunch.  As part of the Responsive Classroom program we use at Burns Park, my class has a 10-15 minute “rest and relax” time right after lunch as a way to reset for the afternoon. And then we move things along.

What is the most rewarding part of teaching?  The most rewarding part of teaching for me has been the relationships I have maintained with students and families from all 30 years of teaching.  To have former students stop by to visit “Miss Sykes” 25 years later, to be invited and attend their law school graduation, to go to their weddings, or to be “friended” on Facebook. It’s very special. It’s very rewarding to hear all of the good they are all doing and to hear their memories of our time together.

After a year in your classroom, what would you most want your students to say about the experience?  I hope they would say it was the best year ever and that they learned so much.  Not only academically, but about life and how to treat others.

What have you changed your mind about recently? With the new classroom furniture that was delivered in December, I have had to change my mind on how we decide where to sit, how to manage materials, and how to arrange the furniture.  It was a bit tricky to change course, mid-year, but I will be ready for next year.

How do you like the new furniture and arrangements so far? What do you say to those who wonder if we’re letting children get too comfortable?  The new furniture is awesome!  At first, I was concerned about letting go of the furniture I have always had, but once the new furniture arrived, I couldn’t wait to get rid of the old! It is beautiful and very versatile. I am not afraid the children will get too comfortable. There is a place for everyone to do their best work.

What has surprised you most about the profession? Nothing surprises me.  I feel like I have seen it all. I’m actually starting to see some things for a second or third time!

What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher? I wish everyone would realize that there are not enough hours in the day to do everything we are asked to do with our students.

How do you recharge?  I recharge by getting together with friends. We usually brainstorm ways to do things differently in our classrooms. I also walk every day.   This gives me an opportunity to clear my mind and be ready for the new day.

How do you spend your summer break? In the summer I spend time with my family.  I like to garden. I like to go to Mackinac Island.  I like to read. I also like to prepare for “next year” by reading new books and learning the latest and greatest in the world of teaching.

What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life? The most exciting part of my professional life is teaching and learning with my fantastic third grade class. This year has been amazing. In my personal life, my family is getting a new Labradoodle puppy when school is out.  We can’t wait to meet her!

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  1. Thank you for covering this exceptional teacher, who is a role model for inclusive classroom instruction in AAPS! Thank you and congratulations, Mrs. Crankshaw!

  2. Ms. Crankshaw is an absolute rock star my children have had her collectively for three years! This is a prime example of a teacher that goes above and beyond in so many ways for so many of her current and past students. I am so thrilled to see this article highlighting one of the brightest and hard working stars we have in our district! Thank you AAPS for recognizing her and Thank you Molly Crankshaw for everything you have done for so many!

  3. You are awesome!!!! Well deserved article because you are exceptional. Thanks for all the work you do.

  4. This is such an excellent article highlighting such an excellent teacher. She exudes a calm, collected confidence, and her students LOVE her. My son truly will have lifetime memories of his third grade class with Ms. Crankshaw. Hmmmm….I better hold onto those valentines 😉

  5. Thirty years as a teacher is outstanding! Your responses to the professional teaching questions were thoughtful and inspiring. I appreciate your methods of communication with parents and others in the field to provide updates and information on a regular basis such as “Power School”; I’m interested in learning more about this APP because of your comment. Thank you for your lifetime dedication and commitment to our children’s future!!

  6. P.S. I have a third grader who has autism; your interest and concern to learn about your children’s special needs in learning how to teach them differently is commendable and honorable! Again, thank you for your special teaching skills and your efforts to be a life-time learner!!

  7. Great example of how teachers inspire generations. Proud to know that the seeds planted so long ago here in Ionia are still bearing fruit. You Go Girl!

  8. Mrs. Crankshaw is always open to new opportunities to learn and become the best teacher she can be! It is refreshing to be in her clasroom, feel love and appreciation for what I do. thank you!

    Mary Ann Kozak
    assistant to josh h., student with autism

  9. Mrs. Crankshaw is always open to new opportunities to learn and become the best teacher she can be! It is refreshing to be in her clasroom, feel love and appreciation for what I do. thank you!

    Mary Ann Kozak
    assistant to josh h., student with autism

  10. Congratulations Molly! Your leadership and intelligence have had a significant impact on students and teachers at AAPS. You are a wonderful role model for the profession!

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