A Star Teacher: Crisler shines bright at Manchester Academy

By CATHRYN CARTWRIGHT,

For the last 38 years, the students of Manchester Academy have heard the consistent tap-tap-tapping sound coming from Debbie Crisler's chalk board as she energetically teaches a variety of lessons in mathematics.  Her dedication to teaching and coaching tennis over the years has contributed to the success of hundreds of Manchester graduates.

Originally from the small town of Parkin, Ark., Debbie Crisler is the wife of BeBe Crisler, and the mother of Brenner Davidson, John Crisler, and Blanton Crisler.  She is a member of Second Presbyterian Church in Yazoo City, and often enjoys visits in Arkansas with her granddaughter Lola.

Because of her love for arithmetic, Crisler pursued and achieved a Bachelor of Science degree in Math from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. 

"I just always liked math so it was just a natural thing for me to do," she said.

Crisler taught for at least three years in the Yazoo City School system before accepting a teaching job at Manchester Academy in 1981.

"When I first started, I taught Algebra 2 and Geometry," she said.

As the years passed, other teachers at the school either retired or moved to other positions, and Debbie picked up more classes to teach, including Advanced Math, Calculus, and even some Trigonometry.

Crisler still prefers to use old school methods of teaching, compared to using newer computer based learning platforms. 

"I do not do quizzes or tests on the computer mainly because I check all of their work," she said. "I just don't think (using a computer) is quite as fair an evaluation.  When I check their work, I can tell if they are using their order of operations right, or if they knew when to add or multiply the exponents. Whatever I am testing them on, if I am looking at their work, I can see what they have done right or wrong, and I can still give them credit for the part that they did right."

Because many of Crisler’s math problems can be very lengthy when hand written, she provides her students with review sheets on 8x14 inch legal paper, which she creates by hand.

"I use the longer paper so they can have room to show me all of their work," she said. "I hand write the review pages because I can do it a whole lot faster, especially when I need symbols like an interval sign or a radical sign."

"Fast" is another word to describe Crisler’s teaching style.  Any student who has ever taken one of her math classes will remember how Mrs. Crisler could write on the board with one hand while erasing with the other.  She will however stop long enough for students to ask questions or catch up on copying their notes.

"I will stop," she said. "I usually just try to get it all written down and then I will stop and ask if they have any questions or need time to write it down."

Crisler said that a typical class period normally consists of going over homework from the night before and then she transitions into a new section of a chapter with examples on the board.

"I also supplement from almost every book I have ever used," she said. "I will get the problems, and I will look in other books and try to find some other problems and try to let the students see the difference."

Crisler said that over the years the biggest change in her classroom was transitioning from a plain chalkboard into a newer dry-erase board.  She added that she ends up washing the black ink from her hands after every class period to keep from getting it on her clothes.

Among other memories in teaching, Crisler said that being chosen as STAR Teacher so many times has truly been an honor.

"I think it’s been like 14 times," she said. "It makes you feel really good. You hope that maybe you have reached that person and that they have appreciated what we have done."

Outside of her classroom at Manchester Academy, Crisler is also involved with the tennis team.  Though she says her coaching style is a bit different from others, she feels like she is more encouraging to the players than anything.

"About all I tell them is to watch the ball and move their feet," she said. "I am more encouraging than anything. I tell them ‘You are doing fine, don't worry about that game, it's over.’”

Crisler added that most of the student athletes are so dedicated that they will often take the initiative to practice on their own at the Yazoo Country Club.

"I remember one year we got home and they had not done well," she said. "We got home from a match and I think the whole team went out to the tennis courts and started practicing on their own."

Crisler said that it is this kind of determination that has led the Maverick tennis team to so many victories, including multiple state championships for both the girls and boys teams.

"Winning State is probably one of my most favorite memories with the tennis team," she said. "That was just so much fun because everybody was so excited, and everybody watching and yelling, that's fun."

Because of her 38 years of dedication to the school, Crisler was recently named as one of Manchester Academy's 2019 Hall of Fame Inductees.

"It is certainly an honor," she said. "When you think back over all of these years there have been some really good teachers at Manchester who have given so much. I just don't think that I am up there with them yet."

Crisler said that she is proud to be a part of a school that has produced so many successful people over the years.

"You know for a school this size we really have a lot of doctors, and not to mention all of the engineers," she said. "I think that's pretty amazing for a school this size to have that many. I think that goes back a lot to the parents who make sure the child learns to study and manage their time and just wants to do their best."

Crisler’s advice to anyone who seeks a career in education is to show students how much you care.

"If they know that you care, they are going to work harder," she said. "If they know that you care and they know that you think they can do it, then hopefully they will go for it."