Riverview Elementary School fourth grade teacher Chris Caduff is Teacher of the Year
Riverview Elementary School fourth grade teacher Chris Caduff was a little surprised when he opened his email one day earlier this month. It turned out, according to the email he'd gotten, that he had been chosen as the Farmington School District's Teacher of the Year.
"That's exactly how I found out," he said. "I was excited. It's exciting."
Now in his ninth year of teaching full time in Farmington, Caduff has been working with fourth graders at Riverview since the school opened four years ago. He came to Farmington as a special education teacher at Akin Road Elementary, then spent a couple of years teaching both second and fourth grades at Farmington Elementary School.
He enjoys being settled in with fourth grade at one school, but that comes after a career of moving around and experiencing some different cultures before settling in at Farmington.
Though he's from New Market, much of Caduff's early teaching experience came in Oregon, where he worked on a school peer mediation program. After a couple years of that, he joined the Peace Corps and went to southern Africa, where he helped teachers get their qualification to teach. There were a number of teachers who had the classroom experience, he said, but when the South African government changed its qualifications for educators, many did not have the skills required. Caduff helped those teachers get the skills they needed.
That meant making some adjustments for Caduff. He'd go to Africa for several months, until he ran out of money, then come back to the US and substitute teach. When he got enough money saved up again, he'd head back to Africa.
"I think I did that three or four times," he said.
He was hoping his work with the Peace Corps would lead to a permanent position, but when that didn't happen, he decided it was time to head back to Minnesota for good. But his experiences, both in Oregon and in South Africa, have proved helpful in many ways over the years.
"Those experiences definitely had a profound impact on me, and I think still do. I still draw on them, still talk about it and share differences and similarities of how things are," Caduff said.
In his classroom, Caduff works hard at instilling good values in students.
"Personally, for me, social development of kids is so important. Especially at this age, it's as much as academic. I try to lead by example to be a good person, I try to instill that in kids," he said. "You learn things along the way, absolutely, but if you can't get along with a person when you get out of school, it's just going to be a tough go, in any field."
He enjoys being a fourth grade teacher because students at that age are very inquisitive, but they also have developed a good sense of understanding of different concepts. Working with a set group of peers and students and families is also nice, he said, because it enables him to try new things and know he has the support to do so. The Teacher of the Year designation seems to reinforce that.
"I think (students) are pretty excited. I tend to not make a big deal about it, but there's things on the TVs in school here. They're definitely aware of it. Some past students as well. "
Caduff has a packet he has to fill out and send in to be eligible for the state's Teacher of the Year designation. He'll get to that soon enough. For now, though, he's just honored to be Farmington's recipient.
"It's nice to be recognized by your peers. It's really a vote of confidence you're doing things okay in the classroom," he said.