INTERVIEW: Alabama’s Outspoken Teacher Of The Year

Birmingham and Alabama Teacher of the Year Alison Grizzle. Alabama State Department of Education photo.

Birmingham and Alabama Teacher of the Year Alison Grizzle. Alabama State Department of Education photo.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Alison Grizzle isn’t your typical teacher, or even your typical Alabama Teacher of the Year. The Birmingham City Schools math instructor is known for being very outspoken, even on third-rail issues like standardized testing and the Common Core State Standards. We thought we’d share her thoughts on those issues and more as staff and students return to school routines. Our Alabama reporter Dan Carsen recently caught up with Grizzle at an education conference where she was giving talks. But it turns out this award-winning teacher almost didn’t become a teacher at all:

LISTEN to the five-minute on-air version: 

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LISTEN to the 36-minute extended version:

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Subject and time pegs for the extended interview are below:

Through 2:15 – Grizzle discusses some of her duties as Alabama Teacher of the Year, and how Birmingham superintendent Craig Witherspoon has supported her in those efforts.

2:17– Carsen asks Grizzle how she ended up where she is professionally. Grizzle explains her career choice and her father’s influence, and then shares thoughts on perceptions of teaching — and teachers — nationally.

6:12 – Grizzle shares her perspective on the Common Core State Standards and Alabama’s version of them, the Alabama College- And Career-Ready Standards.

12:18 – Grizzle breaks down why some teachers are fearful of the Common Core standards, and standardized testing in general.

15:50 – Carsen asks Grizzle what she thinks are the root causes of the problems she’s been discussing.

17:20 – Carsen asks Grizzle what it’s like being a white teacher in a basically all-black Birmingham high school.

18:40 – Grizzle explains what’s unique about her self-described home of more than a decade: Birmingham’s Jackson-Olin High School.

19:41 – Carsen asks Grizzle if she thinks the media was fair to Birmingham City Schools during all the controversy leading up to the state takeover.

24:08 – Carsen asks Grizzle if she thinks the state takeover of Birmingham City Schools was justified.

26:00 – Grizzle begins sharing her thoughts on the future of Birmingham City Schools and why she’s optimistic.

28:20 – Grizzle tells of attending “education reform” meetings where there were no educators.

30:33 – Grizzle exhorts would-be critics to step foot in schools before forming opinions, and tells of exciting programs happening in Alabama, specifically, at Calera High School. She goes on to explain that, though good teachers persevere, they do “get tired” in times of bad press and assumptions of failure.

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