The Saratoga Sun -

From student to teacher to student

Encampment Teacher gets district-wide teacher of the year award


Zachary Laux

Photo by Zachary Laux Encampment English teacher Leslie McLinskey with her newborn son. McLinskey was named Teacher of the Year for Carbon County School District No. 2.

Encampment English Teacher Leslie McLinskey received a surprise May 9 after her principal made an unexpected announcement in the Encampment gym during the Young Authors award ceremony.

Before the Young Authors began to step up and read their work to a large crowd, Encampment Principal walked up to the podium and announced McLinskey had been recognized as Carbon County School District No. 2’s Teacher of the Year.

“I was shocked,” McLinskey said. “I knew Pam Kraft had nominated me, but I did not expect to win, and I had no idea that Mike was going to announce it in front of everybody.”

Superintendent Bob Gates said McLinskey was well deserving of the award because of the innovation she shows as a leader in the classroom.

“She’s a great teacher, well deserving of the award,” Gates said. “She is, not only a leader in the classroom, but a leader in the district as well.”

Gates said her take on curriculum development was superior, making her a great candidate for the award.

McLinskey said she does have a curriculum that is engaging to students, but she didn’t develop it overnight.

“I really designed and crafted a lot of it on my own,” she said. “I worked hard at Encampment to build complex and engaging circular units that will incorporate several skills.”

An example of her curriculum encompasses her “Shakespearean unit” where students have the opportunity to breathe new life into a Shakespeare play by putting a modern twist on the classic tale. This year, students turned Hamlet into a western film, McLinskey said.

“I think that there is a very important place for classic literature,” McLinskey said. “But, unless there is a way for students to personally connect with that, it becomes this dull old-fashioned thing.”

Getting children engaged in literature is the underlining theme of everything McLinskey does in the classroom, she said.

“This applies to me and all of my classes and everything we do,” she said. “That is what makes learning concrete.”

McLinskey can’t remember a time where she didn’t want to teach, she said, but her passion for literature and teaching grew after a bad experience in her high school English class.

“I remember one awful teacher I had in high school,” McLinskey said. That teacher was her sophomore English teacher during the time her class was reading “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

“She just sucked all of the joy out of this beautiful story and I just didn’t want to be her,” McLinskey said. “I just believed English class could be better.”

After getting her high school diploma, McLinskey attended Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, where she eventually got her degrees in English and education.

During her time at Grinnell College, McLinskey took an English course instructed by Jean Ketter, a professor who was like a “superhero” to McLinskey.

“Taking her classes, there was absolutely no doubt that this is what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be good at and what I wanted to put my heart and soul in,” McLinskey said.

McLinskey has left similar impressions on her own students.

“She’s a phenomenal teacher and she has encouraged me to write better,” said Becca Treat, an Encampment School student. “She kind of pinpoints everybody’s weaknesses and strengths. She doesn’t make it seem like everyone has to learn in the exact same way. She understands everyone learns differently.”

For McLinskey, the teacher of the year award isn’t just about her teaching. The award is also about her students, she said.

“I think this award is more of a testament to my students than it is to me,” McLinskey said. “They are the ones who do the work. They are the purpose for everything that I do.”


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