Students at Norwalk High School shouldn’t be surprised to see Sheena Grove standing on her desk the first day of school.
“I think they all would say, ‘Mrs. Grove is the crazy teacher,’ ” the 11th grade English teacher says. “It sets the tone for the year.”
It’s just one unique way Grove tries to keep her students engaged in class. She also uses different voices and accents, and has lessons “way outside the box,” she says.
That includes students writing a “rant poem,” which they can share with their classmates — perched on their chair, if they like. The exercise shows it’s all right to be angry in an “appropriate way,” Grove says, versus getting into fights or putting things online.
Grove’s offbeat approach has roots in her own childhood experiences in English class, where she could be a little “crazy,” she says. It’s what led her to want to teach the subject.
“I could be a little more creative,” she says. It’s where she saw that any idea is acceptable, as long as you had an argument to support it.
The philosophy that there is no such thing as a ridiculous idea is something she tries to have students embrace, along with creativity and innovation.
Nurturing and celebrating the uniqueness of each student is at the core of Grove’s teaching philosophy.
“I try to see them as people first. I don’t feel you can teach someone until you understand them as a person.”
That involves getting to know students well enough to notice when something is wrong, and placing a “secret card” in their locker or a sticky note on their desk to ask how things are going. Sometimes it’s complimenting someone, particularly if she feels that person isn’t getting positive feedback.
Her empathy stems from her own upbringing in a “chaotic, tumultuous” household, where there was drinking and her parents argued a lot, Grove says. Some of her teachers became her safe haven, where she could be herself and vent. She vowed one day to do the same for young people.
Grove wants students to leave her class knowing that people do care about them.
And, she adds: “I want them to be a good person and find success in whatever way they might find it.”