When Alison Grizzle ’97 accepted the award for Alabama Teacher of the Year earlier this month, she told a little story. Two days before the award was announced, Grizzle had arrived early at P. D. Jackson-Olin High School, where she teaches math. A student, who also had arrived early, was excited to say she had seen Grizzle on TV when she was announced as a finalist for the prestigious award, which is sponsored by the Alabama State Board of Education and the Alabama Department of Education.
“You did?” Grizzle asked.
Then she did as great teachers can do when they have a rapport with their students—she joked with her. “Did I look cute? Was it okay? Did I embarrass you?” The student told Grizzle that she was happy to see the school portrayed in a positive light, because the media only seemed to show up on the school’s doorstep when the news was bad.
“When my children’s first [questions are], ‘What’s wrong? Why are they here?'” Grizzle told the well-wishers and media who had gathered to see her accept the award, “we have a problem.”
Throughout her speech that evening—and in a speech days later at a recognition ceremony for the state’s teachers—Grizzle talked about her pride in the efforts made by school administrators to better the educational experience of the students throughout the state and especially at Jackson-Olin, which is part of the Birmingham City School District.
While Grizzle was in Montgomery to accept the award from State Superintendent Tommy Bice, she also was there to represent schools that don’t always get the attention they deserve.
“I’m happy today to stand here for schools that have been labeled as failing, because I’m from one of those schools,” said Grizzle. “They tell us we’re failing; but we’re not failing. We’re thriving.”
Grizzle will spend the next year as a spokeswoman for Alabama’s public schools, and she’s now in the running to become the nation’s Teacher of the Year.