There are teachers, and then there are teachers like Larry Grimes, Science Department chair at Sierra High School where he has been a member of the faculty for the last 15 years.
The father of three and grandfather of two who is celebrating 40 years of marriage this year with wife Sheri, teaches all four levels of biology offered at Sierra. They are Applied Biology for students who need special assistance in achieving academic success, College Prep for biology students who need to learn college-level skills, Physiology for those who are stepping up from regular biology to advance work, and AP (Advance Placement) Biology for those required to do college-level work.
In addition to teaching at Sierra High which he calls “my day job,” Grimes takes “advantage of various lecturing opportunities at Pacific, conduct biological research on California desert ants, write for publication, and work with my students on biological research projects each year.”
These teacher-student projects run the gamut. They include a water quality study of the San Joaquin River – “all 320 miles of it” – from its headwaters at Martha Lake to the point where it merges with the Sacramento River in Suisun Bay, and studying the effect of imported Fire Ants on native ant species. He and some colleagues are also planning on taking two-dozen Sierra High students into the Peruvian Amazon during the summer of 2015 for two weeks of biodiversity research on the northern Amazon River.
Besides chairing Sierra’s science department, Grimes serves as faculty advisor for the school’s California Scholarship Federation and Class Leadership for freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes consecutively. He is currently starting his second cycle as faculty advisor to the graduating class of 2017.
Other special programs he has been involved with include being an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) and MESA (Mathematics, Engineering & Science Achievement) teacher. The AVID/MESA program was dissolved in 2004 due to the budget crisis.
Grimes’ love of teaching is not limited in the classroom setting. He devotes a lot of his personal time to tutoring students. Sierra Principal Steve Clark noted this when he presented the Cortopassi Excellente in Teaching award recently to Grimes. Clark noted the many hours devoted by Grimes during his lunch hours tutoring students who need help. Grimes makes himself available in his classroom every day for any students who needs tutoring after school. But that’s not all. Grimes also teaches an early morning “alpha period” from 6:15 to 7:15 during the spring semester so that AP Biology students can get extra help.
Grimes completed his bachelor’s degree in religion from California Lutheran University, his master’s in cross-cultural education from National University, and his doctorate in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in science education from the University of the Pacific in Stockton. He was Manteca Unified’s High School Teacher of the Year in 2006.
As to his educational philosophy, Grimes said it is “best stated in the words of William Butler Yeats: ‘Education is not about filling a bucket, but about lighting a fire.’
“ Education should not be about seeing how much curriculum we can stuff down students’ throats. It’s about giving them a chance to fall in love with learning. Show them a little enthusiasm, provide some inspiration, give them a little guidance, and get out of the way as they take the bit between their teeth. I have found that with a little support, so-called average students accomplish amazing things,” he said.
He concluded, “I have the best job in the world. I cannot imagine doing anything else.”