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Turner, other teachers will be missed

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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Greg Turner is a natural teacher. Teaching grade school for six years, the last three at Western Placer Unified School District, Turner can turn any news into a classroom lesson. When students heard a few months ago that he and other teachers were immediately being fired, Turner turned his impending layoff, which was among the rumored firings, into a learning experience for his Creekside Oaks Elementary School fifth-graders. His students saw how today?s recession-weakened state budget directly impacts Lincoln schools. That?s a lesson most fifth-graders don?t learn about until they reach high school or college governmental policy classes. ?We had to say to our students, ?No, we?re not being fired; no, it?s not our last day. But we probably won?t be teaching next year,?? Turner said. ?They were upset but understand why after hearing about the money situation with the state.? I shouldn?t be surprised by his positive spin on his pink slip; Turner was named Western Placer Unified School District?s teacher of the year two weeks ago. ?Greg is an exceptional teacher. He will do anything and everything to help his kids succeed,? Creekside Oaks Principal Scott Pickett said about Turner?s recent award. ?He will spend as much extra time as needed, lunchtime, after school, on a regular basis. He does that all the time. He has a wonderful rapport with the kids and parents. The parents know he cares about the kids.? To me, it?s ironic that the district?s teacher of the year must leave his job two weeks after getting the surprise honor. But Turner, 30, is probably more mature than me. On his second-to-last day at Creekside Oaks last Thursday, Turner remained positive about his three years with the elementary school and the Western Placer Unified School District. Even though last week was bittersweet for him. ?I understand why it has to be done. The Western Placer Teachers Association did a lot to figure out where we can make financial cuts in other places,? Turner said. ?I was lucky to get this Western Placer Unified School District job three years ago, knowing that the Rocklin and Roseville districts were laying off. When I took the position, I understand there was a chance cuts would have to be made. It was a chance I was willing to take. It all comes down to seniority when you?re in the teaching field.? Coincidentally, two Creekside parents wrote letters to the editor this week praising Turner. A college journalism teacher told me that, if someone took time out of his or her busy day to write a letter, at least 20 others had the same thoughts. ?I?m going to miss most obviously the kids, first and foremost, the kids we work with every day,? Turner said. ?After three years here, I will take with me all the relationships with the staff, parents and students. I see a lot of kids at 4H, baseball games, soccer games. I coach Little League and usually see students there. I hope to interact with them and maintain the relationships we formed with the parents, staff and kids.? Part of being a good teacher is always setting a good example to students. And Turner, true to form, is doing that with his next career step. Turner is now studying at National University for a special ed credential and looking for an internship, ?hopefully? at a Lincoln school. He has a degree in child and adolescent development from San Jose State University. Before teaching at Creekside Oaks, Turner interned in a Placer County Office of Education class for emotionally-disturbed students. ?After I get my credential, ideally I?d love to stay in Lincoln and I would love to work in a special ed class or in a class with behavioral needs or emotional disturbances,? Turner said. ?I would love to work with those kids; the year I did, it was definitely a challenge. To be a better teacher, I need to challenge myself and push myself.? Why does he want to stay in Lincoln? ?I plan to be in Lincoln as long as I can. I lived in San Jose until I was 25,? Turner said. ?I enjoy the small-town atmosphere here. Growing up in a big city, the communities are different. Go to McBean Park and you?ll see everyone watching the games. Even families without kids are watching the games.? Of course, Turner isn?t the only one affected by pink slips. ?It?s going to be extremely painful,? Creekside Oaks Principal Scott Pickett said. ?He?s an outstanding teacher and it will be very painful to have him not be here. He and the other teachers will be greatly missed next year.? Pickett was referring to a kindergarten teacher, two first-grade teachers, a fourth-grade teacher and two fifth-grade teachers who lost their jobs due to budget cuts. Although teachers across the state are losing their jobs because of budget cuts, it doesn?t make it any easier for Lincoln?s teachers and students. Teaching is a huge responsibility as it helps shape tomorrow?s adults. I wish the state?s politicians would quickly realize this and reallocate funds into the school fund before politicians, within days, pass the new budget. It would make the future of California children much brighter. Carol Feineman can be reached at carolf@goldcountrymedia.com