LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Catherine Cline

Position: Special Education Teacher
School: Clarence B. Sabbath 6-8 Preparatory Academy
School District: River Rouge School District
City, State: River Rouge, MI

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Catherine Cline was nominated by her friend, Norlena Brown.

Mrs. Cline has been a teacher for 25 years in the city of River Rouge. Over the years, she has been an elementary teacher, a middle school science teacher, and a special education teacher. She is a strong advocate for students with disabilities, and it is not uncommon for her to work 16 hour days. She is passionate about her students, and it is because of them that she works so hard.

Mrs. Cline does not like when students are labeled as having a “specific learning disability,” as this term is too generic. She looks closely at each student and tries to pinpoint their individual learning disability. Then, she teaches her students about how their brain works, how they learn and why they are having difficulties learning. By giving them tools and strategies to help their individual needs, they are able to find success.

It is difficult for Mrs. Cline to find the necessary tools for each child, so instead of searching for it, she makes her own. She designs and creates educational material that will help students with their specific needs. As she makes it her mission to know her students on a personal level, she also tries to stay in regular contact with their parents to keep them in the loop. If a particular student needs additional assistance, Mrs. Cline is always willing to visit them at home.

In addition to supporting students with their general education curriculum, Mrs. Cline also teaches remediation, brain-based learning strategies, and various art and sewing projects in the classroom. She spends thousands of dollars each year out of her own pocket for computer programs, comfortable furniture, food, learning materials, ink, and art supplies in order for her students to have access to everything they need. 

Mrs. Cline has received unsolicited thank you notes from her students for supplying an extensive collection of books of different genres, multiple grade levels and unique collections. She has helped fund individual student field trips and has even sent money home with students’ whose families are struggling. She also buys backpacks, supplies, school uniforms and clothing for students when needed.  

It is not uncommon for students to stop by her classroom for help on work, food, bandages, or an alternative location to focus. One might even be surprised by the number of boys who stop by her classroom with a pass for a quick sewing lesson because their pants or shirt may have ripped. Mrs. Cline continues to attend professional development and is always trying to learn as much as possible. She is always looking to find new strategies and technology that will help her students succeed in the general education classroom. 

Throughout her educational career, Mrs. Cline has been an administrative assistant, school improvement chair, testing coordinator, and professional development trainer. As a teacher leader, she has mentored others and trained teachers in a variety of topics that include instructional strategies, school improvement and technology.  She is currently her teacher union treasurer, and has served as president and chief union negotiator.

She has written grants and won awards for her school district, including the Kellogg Grant, Detroit Edison, Wayne RESA Grants, McDonalds and a Fifth Third Bank Award. She was also one of the recipients of the Wayne RESA/Ford Motor Company “Teacher of the Year” award in 2007. She volunteers to tutor her students after school and during the summer at the local library. 

She currently volunteers as an educational consultant for St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Wayne, Michigan. In her personal time, she assesses students from the school for possible learning deficits, collaborates with teachers, provides them with specific teaching strategies and makes suggestions for technology implementation. One of Mrs. Cline's favorite quotes is, “If you are not learning the way I am teaching, tell me so that I can teach the way you learn.”