By Michael Pineda
If Crystal Garrison had her way, there would have been several teachers recognized as Teacher of the Year at Lone Grove.
But when the announcement was made during halftime of a high school basketball game, there was no arguing that she truly deserved it.
The middle and elementary music teacher was honored for the passion and creativity she brings to the classroom. A graduate of Lone Grove, Garrison grew up in a family of teachers.
“Crystal Garrison currently serves as our lead and intermediate music instructor and does an amazing job,” said Lone Grove Superintendent Meri Jayne Miller. “Ms. Garrison became famous to me even before she was hired at Lone Grove because I heard such positive descriptions of her teaching style and the unique ways she reaches her students through the medium of music education.
“All of her students at Lone Grove are caught up in her magic for learning and she incorporates core curriculum topics into her daily lessons. She exudes zest for life and her personality is one that shows she has high expectations for herself both professionally and personally! We are blessed to have Ms. Garrison as part of our Lone Grove Public Schools family.”
A background in education
Garrison graduated from Lone Grove in 1998 and taught at two different schools before returning home in 2012. When considering her future, Garrison said her family had an influence on her choice of education.
“My mom was a teacher, my uncle a teacher,” she said. “A lot of family members were teachers and so I thought I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher for a long time because that’s what my mother was like. I loved making charts and helping her in her room.
“And then when I got to high school, I had Wes Singleton, he’s the most amazing music teacher ever. He is now in Edmond doing amazing things. He started teaching me my voice lessons at the age of 12 and I just fell in love with music and wanted to be a music teacher.”
A love of music combined with a love of children led Garrison to enter education as an elementary school music teacher.
Making music an experience
The student experience is one of the most important aspects of education for Garrison. It is demonstrated in the elementary plays, which she writes herself to ensure that all children are included.
“The ones I was buying, you have five stars,” she said. “I want my child to have a line and you want your child to have a line. So I just started writing my plays.”
Garrison said she focuses on making them comedic to ensure a show is enjoyable for family and friends who attend a show. She also makes sure that every student who wants a spoken line gets at least one during a performance.
Puppets are also a big part of Lone Grove’s elementary music. Young students can get distracted in a classroom, but with the help of puppets like Chimpo, the monkey puppet, students stay engaged. A disco ball helps motivate children to behave and once a goal is achieved, there is disco time during which children have 10 minutes to dance to fun music.
“It makes me happy that they come into my room excited,” she said. “They come around, hug me, asking me: ‘What are we going to do today.’ They are smiling and excited. This is what I want.
“They actually enjoy it and there’s no exhaustion. They are excited and want to come to my class more than once a week.”
A humbling honor
Garrison is naturally happy and honored to win teacher of the year, but also feels there were some worthy candidates across the county.
“When I found out I was nominated, there’s another teacher at the intermediate level, I think that’s phenomenal,” Garrison said. “I think it’s wrong to vote for yourself, so I voted for him.”
Garrison was declared the middle school teacher of the year, advancing to the district level where once again there were deserving candidates.
“I was excited, but at the same time, it was like this feeling that I wish everybody could get this and not just me because I see all the work they put into it,” Garrison said.
The honor of being recognized for excellence is gratifying, but validation for a job well done comes in many forms and means just as much to Garrison. There was a moment recently when one of the district’s cafeteria workers came to Garrison and told her how much her children loved music. Garrison said moments like these mean as much to her as winning teacher of the year.
“Every time I hear how a child loves my class, it makes my heart happy and bubbly,” she said. “Every time I have a kid tell me how much they love the music or pull out a card. I had a kid make me a bracelet the other day that said, “Music, Mrs. G, I love you.” Little things like that really keep me going.”
There is no place like home
Garrison taught at two other schools before returning home in 2012. She has had other opportunities that include working from home, but feels she would miss some of what is outside of the classroom at Lone Grove.
“This is who I am, this is what I do,” Garrison said.
And while she’s loved the other schools she’s taught at, Garrison said the support and friendships within the Lone Grove staff set the district apart.
“We’re friends,” she said. “We support each other. I feel like I can go to any of them in tears or I can say I’m struggling with this student and we support each other.”
Garrison described a culture of trust within the system and spoke of a bond where other teachers can come into her room, sit on the couch and pray with her.
“We just have that kind of bond, a family bond,” Garrison said. “So this is my house, period.”
District honors for 2024
- District Teacher of the Year – Crystal Garrison
- Best Middle School Teacher – Michael Cathey
- Middle School Teacher of the Year – Linda Baughman
- Intermediate Teacher of the Year – Crystal Garrison
- Elementary Teacher of the Year – Sarah Gunter
- District Support Worker of the Year – Natalie Caldwell
- Support Staff High School Finalist – Michelle Lopez
- High School Finalist Support Staff – Xavier Akins
- Support Staff Primary School Finalist – Natalie Caldwell