Philpott Motors’ Teacher of the Month: Griffith takes care of her ‘Honey Bunnies’

Published 6:20 pm Friday, June 21, 2024

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During the summer Denise Griffith usually has about 20 Honey Bunnies but this summer she has 90.

The prekindergarten teacher at Wheatley School of Early Childhood Programs is taking part in Port Arthur Independent School District’s Summer Of Academic Refinement program.

Honey Bunny is what she calls her students.

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“They get off the bus — ‘Honey Bunny’,” Griffith said describing how the mostly 4-year-olds greet her.

On Thursday, Griffith was recognized as Teacher of the Month, sponsored by Philpott Motors. The honor comes with a $500 gift card and puts Griffith in the running for Teacher of the Year, which is awarded in December and comes with a $1,000 gift card.

Roycesietta Allen, SOAR summer school program coordinator, said Griffith has taught for 30 years and still retains the same excitement years later.

“It’s truly amazing. You come in every day. The kids are excited to see you,” Allen said to Griffith. “It’s truly amazing. You come in every day bright. The kids are excited to see you. It’s engagement as soon as they walk through the door and we really appreciate all you do and all you have exposed our students to this summer.”

Griffith is teaching science to the prekindergarten students with daily experiments.

A tote at the front of the room holds “lab coats” and another holds safety goggles. A chart in the back of the room has the rules to follow, which they go over daily.

On Monday the students will use recycled trash such as shoe boxes and creamer containers to build Billy Goat Gruff’s Bridge. There are parameters with the lesson that follows the children’s fairytale.

Griffith decided upon a career as a teaching when she was 29. She had small children at the time and was very involved in their learning and playing games.

She had decided she would not work with the 4-year-old age group until she got a peek inside a Wheatley classroom at its previous location. Inside were familiar images from her time at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches and the early childhood program.

With 30 years into her career she doesn’t plan to retire anytime soon. She jokingly said she’s still be it the classroom at the age of 90.

As for why she does what she does?

“My heart. My love for the kids,” Griffith said. “Anything going on in my life that’s not cool, I come here and it just goes away. This is my happy place and I just love them with all of my heart. And I love establishing great relationship with their parents. We’re just like a big family. And every year I hate to see them go.”

Griffith said she still has former students come back and visit. One graduated this year and one is graduating. They still call her and have her phone number.

“And I tell them if you ever need anything, whether it’s school related, your personal life, you have a problem, call me. I am here for you anytime day or night.”