Some might say Cindy Hodge is getting a shot at her much overdue 15 minutes of fame.
The Magnolia Elementary School second grade teacher was recently chosen as ABC 10’s Teacher of the Month for the month of February. It is an honor which not only caught her off guard, but by surprise as well.
“I didn’t even know,” Hodge shared of being awarded the honor, noting that she initially misread the e-mail stating she had been nominated and chosen, as just being nominated.
The nomination was prompted by a parent of one of her current second graders, whom Hodge shared was having a hard time accessing Google classroom on Mondays. Apparently multiple students in one household prevented WiFi access and brought some challenges in getting lessons to the young student.
Rising above the challenge, Hodge records her class each Monday in Google meets to help her students with the Distance Learning piece of the Hybrid Schedule.
“We all work so hard,” Hodge stated of she and her colleagues, admitting with being somewhat uncomfortable with the recent kudos.
Of the many things noted in the nomination letter by the parent, she includes an undeniable characteristic of the longtime Magnolia teacher: “Instead of being frustrated ... she has a smile and laughs every day. I have not seen many teachers like her, so I would like to nominate her.”
Humbled by the nomination, as well as the honor, Hodge shared teaching is her true passion. A passion which she has been driven by since childhood.
The veteran OJUSD teacher began with the district in 1999. She first applied for a fourth grade position, which had opened up that August at Magnolia.
“It’s just something I wanted so bad,” Hodge said of the initial position and the nerves she experienced going into the interview.
Determined to give it her all, the recently graduated Stanislaus State student felt she was just in the right state of mind. She was offered the job and one year later, asked by then-Principal Pam Antinetti to move to second grade. She’s been teaching second grade ever since.
“I’ve been in second grade for 20 years. I just love it,” she said. “I just feel like, I know what these kiddos need. I know what to strive for. It doesn’t get boring. I love it. I love it just as much as that first year.”
While there have been many notable changes through the past two decades, the tenured teacher shared some things remain the same and for that she is grateful. As technology has changed much of the classroom dynamic and parenting styles may change from generation to generation, children are still children.
“Staying on top of technology is probably the biggest thing that has changed in my years of teaching,” she said, noting Smart Boards, Chromebooks and the like.
A transition which is doable during in person class instruction, yet posed its own challenge at the start of the 2020-21 school year with Distance Learning.
“I had to teach everything from the computer,” she shared of introducing the second graders to a Chromebook for the first time. “I didn’t think I could do it, but it just happened. It all happened. Everything came together.”
She also shared her joy in working with her students.
“They’re like you and I. They’re big people,” she said of her pint size learners, “but we don’t have to use big words in conversation. We can laugh at things that are silly. Just the age … I love the age. We have so much fun and I love to make school fun.”
Now with 20 years under her second grade teaching belt, navigating a hybrid schedule, it becomes apparent why a parent might feel compelled to nominate a teacher like Hodge. The second grade veteran acknowledged while in person learning is by far her preference, the hybrid model does present its challenges, as the students are both eager to learn, as well as spend time with their friends.
“I’m doing anything I possibly can to help them,” Hodge stated, sharing the importance she personally feels to maintain communication with the parents. “I just do everything I can to connect with the parents and make life a little easier for them.”
And with two-plus decades of experience behind her, the Teacher of the Month confessed she has no immediate or long term aspirations of retirement. True to the phrase “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” Hodge is doing exactly that.
“It’s just my passion. I get paid to do what I do. I love what I do,” she shared with an infectious energy. “I don’t even look at it as a job. This is my life.”
In addition to receiving the honor of ABC10 Teacher of the Month, Hodge is also scheduled to appear on the 5 p.m. newscast on Tuesday, Feb. 16.
“I have my good days and my bad days, but my good days outweigh my bad so much more,” she explained. “I forget about my bad days. I can’t leave them (students), I love this grade.”