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Oakwood Elementary Honors Mathu Crandall as Kiwanis Club Teacher of the Year

Dec 07, 2015 03:20PM ● By Stephanie Lauritzen

By Stephanie Lauritzen

Cottonwood-Holladay - At Oakwood Elementary school, students in Mr. Crandall’s 5th-grade class know to expect the unexpected. After all, a simple lesson on chemical reactions might end with Mentos candy exploding in Pepsi, or students might learn about electricity by building their own electrical circuits using Christmas lights and paper clips. Not to mention the outfits: students often arrive at school to find “Mr. C” dressed up like a gorilla or an Elvis impersonator in blue suede shoes. Former students claim that Crandall can make any subject fun, “even math,” and office administrator Holly Fairbanks notes that students “hate missing school” since an absence inevitably means missing out on something new and exciting. 

In recognition of his efforts at the school, parents, friends, coworkers, and Principal Dianne Phillips all wrote letters nominating Mathu Crandall for this year’s Kiwanis Club Teacher of the Year Award. Crandall was selected as the winner from a pool of applicants from over 150 Utah schools, and Fairbanks helped collect and organize the dozens of letters written in his support. Each letter of recommendation recognized a different service Crandall provided to the school and community, from his efforts as a volunteer fireman during the summer to his participation as “loaned legs,” in local races, in which he runs with special needs students in over 20 events per year. He is a guaranteed cheerleader at student’s extracurricular sports games, and manages to win every fundraising competition offered by the school.

But when asked what really makes Crandall special, Fairbanks emphasized his devotion to his students, and his remarkable ability to make each child feel special and important.

“He really cares, and really listens to the kids; he values their opinions and treats them like adults. Kids can tell when someone genuinely likes them. He gets to know every single student, and makes everyone feel important.” PTA president Holly Richardson shares Fairbank’s high opinion of Crandall.  In her letter of recommendation, Richardson praised Crandall for his enthusiasm and school spirit. “His class has a unified feel because he teaches them the importance of pulling together to achieve goals.  They cheer and encourage each other.”

Fellow educators, including the school’s principal, recognize Crandall’s innovative learning strategies, especially Crandall’s use of technology in the classroom. While students may learn percentages using Hershey candy bars and earn pancake breakfasts for completing their reading logs, Phillips notes that students also learn with advanced technology, preparing them for future learning opportunities. 

“His goal is to get his students to use technology to complete their assignments and show creativity in the process.  Not only is this method of teaching working, but the students love to participate in class,” Phillips said.

Crandall’s support of students extends far beyond his own classroom. Freyja Robinson’s recommendation letter shared her child’s experience racing with Crandall as her “loaned legs.” She described the loving and affectionate relationship shared between the pair, even though her daughter does not communicate verbally. 

“Elizabeth was in heaven… Her eyes light up when she knows it is race day! Mathu is an amazing man with a huge heart for all children. He talks to Elizabeth not at her! It is amazing the bond the two of them have formed.” 

Crandall now races with Robinson’s three-year-old twins, with similar results. “He has an amazing amount of compassion and love for these kids. It’s never about him or his race time, it is always about the child he is racing with and how he can make sure they are having the best time of their lives. We are blessed by his service and compassion. Mathu is a true hero in our lives!”