Royal Oak educator named among county’s best
ROYAL OAK — When a flood of adults poured into Molly Brinker’s classroom March 25, the third-grade math teacher didn’t know what to expect.
“It kind of reminded me of the Publishers Clearing House,” Brinker said. “When the door opened up and a bunch of people came in that I didn’t know, I really had no idea.”
The surprise visit to Addams Elementary in Royal Oak was to name Brinker, 37, the 2013 Oakland County Outstanding Elementary School Teacher of the Year.
“This is like my very first award ever within education,” Brinker said. “Working at the county, I knew that when you’re selected by your district, you’re eligible for the county.
“There are so many deserving teachers in the county and the state. Why they chose me, I don’t know.”
The Clarkston resident has been a teacher at Addams since 2007, and she taught eighth-grade English at Keller Middle School from 2002-2007. Brinker said education wasn’t even the profession she originally sought out.
“I never wanted to be a teacher. I love sports. I work with a lot of runners at the high school level,” Brinker said, noting that her background in running, soccer and dancing led her to seek a career as a physical therapist. “My junior year of college, I was miserable. I loved sports.”
Brinker sat down with her uncle and made a list of things she enjoyed, discovering they all involved children.
“I made the switch and never looked back,” Brinker said.
Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education from Central Michigan University in 1999, before earning her master’s in education in curriculum and instruction from the University of Phoenix in 2002, Brinker made her debut within the Royal Oak Neighborhood Schools district the same year.
“The Royal Oak community is awesome,” Brinker said. “Working with teachers in other counties and teachers within our own county, I don’t think everyone realizes how wonderful the teachers, students and families are at Addams. Our students and our families that we have here are really looking to push themselves to be productive contributors to society.”
Addams parent Karen Thompson can testify to that extra effort. Her daughter, Gloria, 10, was a third-grader in Brinker’s math class last year.
“My daughter is ADHD and struggles with following directions and remembering tasks and assignments,” Thompson said via email. “Mrs. Brinker was never negative, obviously cared for Gloria and her issues and communicated well with me. She took the time to write detailed and personal notes on Gloria’s report card at each marking period — all in a positive and upbeat way.
“These small things made a huge difference and helped Gloria take a real interest to do well in math, and she continues to do well. This is something that astounds me, and in a large way, I credit Mrs. Brinker. I am truly thrilled, but yet not surprised that she is the recipient of such an honor.”
Brinker, along with three other teachers, runs a pod system teaching Addams’ 90 third-graders. Two are part-time and share a classroom, so each of the three classrooms teaches English language arts and rotates through math, science and social studies for the rest of the curriculum. Brinker teaches math to all of the third-graders.
“We can implement best practices if I can just focus on one thing,” Brinker said. “We’re kind of like a middle school for little people.”
A literacy coach for Oakland Schools and a statewide lead facilitator for third through fifth grades, Brinker said she most enjoys helping students over their academic hurdles.
“So many times, kids, especially at the elementary level, they want to do it right and they get frustrated when they don’t know how to do it right away,” Brinker said. “I love working through that frustration to where they (get it).”
After being selected from a pool of 22 elementary school nominees from the county’s 28 districts, Brinker will be honored alongside the middle school and high school winners, as well as the 55 other nominees, at a May 9 event. She and the other two winners will receive a $2,000 check at the event.
Although they were not selected as the countywide winners, Pauline Schultz was named Middle School Teacher of the Year and Ann Maudlin was named High School Teacher of the Year within the Royal Oak district.