McCall Grosso, who is in her fifth year teaching at North Gwinnett High School, said a technology teacher she had at Oconee County High School gave her the inspiration to be the kind of teacher she is today. Earlier this month, Grosso was named Teacher of the Year at North.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a series of profiles of the Teachers of the Year at the North Gwinnett cluster schools.
SUWANEE -- When McCall Grosso explains her passion for teaching students, she points to one of her own high school teachers from Oconee County High School.
Grosso, a 10th-grade language arts teacher at North Gwinnett High School, said Miss Bray, a technology teacher when Grosso was a high school student, was the kind of teacher she wanted to emulate.
"She was a rock star in the classroom, but an even greater role model outside of the classroom for everything she did," Grosso said.
In her fifth year at North, Grosso has applied that example to her own career and teaching style. Grosso is a Relay for Life co-captain, student council sponsor and involved in various other extracurricular activities. Earlier this month, Grosso was named the school's Teacher of the Year.
"You want a young teacher plugged in with kids, but she's also a phenomenal teacher in the classroom," North Principal Ed Shaddix said. "She's definitely made North Gwinnett better, and we're fortunate to have her."
Grosso said she was one of 15 nominees at the school, and earned the honor after the field was narrowed to three. She'll advance to a county-wide Teacher of the Year competition, and the winner will be announced in November.
A faculty vote took into consideration each teacher's philosophies and beliefs, teaching strategy and community service, Grosso said.
Since it's her first job in education, Grosso said she made it a priority to "plug myself in with students in every way possible." That mindset was nothing new for Grosso as she said her own high school career consisted of being involved in several clubs and activities.
"I just wanted to be a part of that culture," she said.
In the classroom, Grosso said she also leans on strategies she first noticed in Bray's technology class, which consisted of keyboarding and using Netscape Navigator, and making the class enjoyable for students.
"It goes back to being relatable to the students and being about to incorporate that technology and incorporate anecdotes and examples that the kids can relate to," Grosso said.
That's why Grosso said it's important to use popular culture and technology when she teaches world literature, which could be material on subjects that are thousands of years old, to relate to students. If not, "they're just going to get lost in the text," she said.
Shaddix said Grosso's relationships with students has produced "incredible" work out of her classroom.
"A relationship with students is the key to motivation and engagement," Grosso said. "So even if they're not in my club or a part of my sport, getting to know each kid on some individual level, a snippet of their life, they'll instantly respect you more."
Having a passion for kids is one reason why Grosso said she was voted Teacher of the Year, and she called it a "real honor" to be among other candidates for Gwinnett's Teacher of the Year, many who have more experience than her.
"Just being the Teacher of the Year at North Gwinnett is a huge honor, because I truly believe that this is the best school in the county," she said. "I wholeheartedly stick behind that. To be a finalist would be amazing."