Lisa Canaday just started her third year as a sixth-grade math teacher at Seven Oak Middle School, but she has already made a deep impression.
In September, she was nominated by co-principal Mike Hillman to receive the Extra Yard for Teachers award from the College Football Playoffs Foundation. In his nomination letter, Hillman described Canaday's efforts.
"She has created a sense of community and belonging in her classroom. The mutual respect in Lisa’s classroom provides a supportive, collaborative environment. She has extremely high expectations and standards for her kids, all the while encouraging them to be great. And they respond by asking and answering higher-level questions, helping to drive instruction, and giving their best efforts on assessments," Hillman wrote.
Canaday was honored to be nominated and was grateful for the support from her administration, but she didn't expect to go any further in the process.
"I thought 'thank you. That's nice,'" Canaday said.
To her great surprise she soon learned that she had been selected as one of the award winners. She received her recognition, and a commemorative $10,000 check, at halftime of Oregon State's 45-7 victory over Cal Poly on Sept. 14 at Reser Stadium.
"It was really fun being down on the field. A little intimidating because I'm not a big crowds and public person," Canaday said.
Extra Yard for Teachers is the outreach campaign operated by the College Football Playoffs Foundation. To date, the foundation has awarded $30 million to schools and teachers.
Canaday grew up in Halsey and graduated from Central Linn High School. She knew from an early age that she wanted to work in education and that led her to enroll at Western Oregon University in Monmouth.
"I chose Western because I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I definitely thought I was going to end up a high school social studies teacher," she said.
Her father helped with her move to campus and before he left he gave her $100 to buy a good calculator. He told her she would need it for math class.
She protested because she expected to take only the minimum math courses required. But Canaday enjoyed her first math course so much she soon changed her major.
After earning a bachelor of science in mathematics at WOU, she moved on to Oregon State where she earned a master's in science and math education.
She still expected to be a high school teacher and signed up for an early training placement at an area high school. Her adviser granted her request, but gave her some unexpected feedback.
"She said, we're going to let you do your short-term placement at the high school, but I'm doing your long-term student teaching at a middle school because you are a middle school teacher, you just don't know it yet," Canaday said. "After a week of being in middle school, I loved it and here I am 17 years later."
Canaday taught for 14 years at Sweet Home Junior High. When she began looking for a different opportunity, she wanted to find a place that in a small community that would feel like home.
The opportunity at Seven Oak Middle School was a perfect fit for Canaday, who lived in Lebanon while teaching in Sweet Home.
"I really like the community that's here. We have a great staff to work with," Canaday said.
She has embraced her identity as a middle school teacher and feels the students at this age have an undeserved reputation for being hard to teach.
"They're still excited to learn. They haven't fully checked out all the way. And I really like that they are just starting to develop their personality and figure out who they are," Canaday said.
She admits to having a "goofy" sense of humor and her sixth-graders are willing to listen to her silly songs. Even by eighth grade, she said, students will roll their eyes at her performances.
As for the $10,000 check, it was awarded to Canaday on behalf of Seven Oak Middle School. Canaday said they have not yet started the process of deciding how to spend the gift.
"We haven't really sat down to look at what we're going to do with the money. It will be fun to sit down and look at some of our needs, some of our wants. We hear 'no, we don't have money for that' so often it will be nice to say yes to some things," Canaday said.