Greenfield — Teacher Caitlin Gordon chuckled with one of her sixth-grade students after her class completed a standardized test.

“If we can survive ILearn, I think we will be able to survive anything!” the boy proclaimed.

Gordon said there is some truth to what her student had said: the standardized test is, for some, their highest hurdle so far academically. So instead of heading straight back into mathematical equations and geometry, she chose casual laughter and a sense of community for 15 minutes.

“They’re hilarious,” Gordon said after tossing a foam ball around a circle of students. “They’re really finding out who they are, but they still like learning.”

As the 2023-2024 Teacher of the Year for Greenfield-Central schools, Caitlin Gordon is recognized for not only holding students to high standards of academics but also for building connections through kindness and humor, according to a press release from the G-C corporation.

Gordon teaches sixth grade math and high ability math at Greenfield Intermediate School, and has been with Greenfield-Central schools for 12 years.

Sporting a T-shirt that colorfully claims “Weird teachers build character,” Gordon uses humor and friendship to connect with students. She casually laughed with the pre-teens on a recent April morning after ILearn, and then soon got right back into solving the surface area of rectangular prisms.

Last July, Gordon was named teacher of the year for the G-C corporation. Eight teachers – one from each school building in the G-C corporation – were nominated for the award, and Gordon was honored July 31, 2023.

A new TOY for the 2024-25 school year will be announced soon on July 29. But for now, Superintendent Dr. Harold Olin says Gordon deserves to be celebrated.

“Dedicated” and “fun” are the two best words to describe Gordon, and Olin said she’s incredibly effective as a classroom teacher.

“She knows her content very well, yet her greatest attribute is her ability to establish strong connections with her students,” Olin said. “She models the type of habits she expects from her students. She shows up regularly, works hard, and she is willing to extend her influence on students well beyond the work day.”

Gordon grew up in Carmel and earned a degree from Purdue University in 2008. She taught in Carmel and Pike Township before landing in Greenfield in 2012.

“I also am blessed to have a parent who was an educator,” she said. “My parents instilled a strong love of learning and the desire to help others from an early age.”

Gordon says teaching sixth-grade math is “what brings me joy.”

“They come in at the beginning of the year unsure of who they are and what we’re doing, and throughout the year they come out of those shells, and you see them grow and become unique and funny individuals,” Gordon said. “Every day is completely different, and that makes it fun. I am beyond blessed to be able to work with my students and be an influence on their lives.”

GIS Principal Bronson Curtis says Gordon is a fixture in the community. When she isn’t coaching students at the pool, she can be found at the baseball diamond.

“Yes, she is there to watch her own boys, however I have seen her bounce from diamond to diamond cheering on future, current, and past students,” Curtis said. “She also asks students to share their extra curricular schedules with her so she can attend various games and events. That is important for students to see. She cares about their interests and hobbies and promotes their efforts at school.”

She gives up prep time and her lunch to get to know students, building a foundation that makes her successful in the classroom. She has a fantastic sense of humor, he added, and mixes that into her classroom daily.

“She has the ability to get sixth grade students to buy-in to how important their education is, which is a hard thing to do with pre-teen students,” Curtis said. “She is consistent and holds each student accountable to meet expectations to give their personal best. She does this in a way that promotes a teamwork idea to the students.”

Gordon is also part of the GIS leadership team, a group of teachers that meets monthly with administration on how to improve the school academically and socially.

She’s even influencing the next generation of teachers. Tandess O’Neal, for example, had Gordon for high ability math in sixth grade years ago. Currently a junior at Marian University studying elementary education, O’Neal studied under Gordon as a mentor teacher for a class and even practiced teaching.

“To me, she was more than a teacher,” O’Neal said of Gordon. “She really focused on creating meaningful relationships with her students and she was always there to answer any questions I had. I also admire how diligent she is – she is constantly finding new ways to keep her students intrigued and she is an ever-learning individual. She provides humor in her lessons to keep it interesting, but also gives tough love whenever her students need it. She truly cares about all of her students.”