Spotlight on a teacher: Debra Cross played school as a child |

Spotlight on a teacher: Debra Cross played school as a child

by Stacey Francois

Some people can go their whole lives without ever finding a career they love, and others, the lucky ones, seem to find that career when they’re very young.

Debra Cross, the 5/6th grade mMulti-age teacher at Minden elementary describes herself as an “education brat.”

With a father who was a teacher, a principal, and a superintendent, school was a big part of her life. She says that her earliest memories are of “playing teacher,” and now she lives out her childhood fantasies daily.

The single mother of three, Cross said that she wasn’t able to attend college until the teaching field opened up. Attending school while caring for her three children, the youngest was only 15 months at the time, was difficult but worthwhile she says now.

Cross has been in the education field for 12 years, and moved to Douglas County from California seven years ago. When she’s not teaching she also enjoys skiing, oil painting, sewing and crafts, as well as travelling.

She describes her classroom as “brain-based,” and even took a year off from teaching to research how the brain works best. She said she “attempts to bring learning to life by providing hands on experiences and a project-oriented classroom.” Some of the special projects they have completed throughout the year include a 4-day camping trip to the Lake Tahoe Basin to study the geological features, as well as a Northwest Pacific Coast Indian art project that was displayed at the Douglas County library. The class also studied the Renaissance time period, and culminated their studies with a production of Shakespeare’s play “Twelfth Night,” that was enjoyed by the entire school and their parents.

“I want students to leave my classroom with the ‘big ideas’ which they can apply in new situations. I integrate skills in the every day working of the curriculum, not as a separate isolated subject,” Cross stated. She also teaches life skills such as keeping a checkbook, filling out applications, and working in collaborative teams.

Because her students next classroom will be at the Middle School, Cross feels it’s important to also teach her students to become organized self-starters, who are responsible and have good work habits.

Finally, Cross said that “The Arts are integrated throughout the curriculum.

This is the emotional connection to material, and often the experiences most remembered by my students.” Cross has now come full circle, from a little girl who first remembers teaching, to a professional who makes teaching memorable.