Employee Highlight, Linda Tolladay

LINDA TOLLADAY WAS  born in Madera to a long-time ranching family. Her father, Don Tolladay, was a leader with FFA at Madera High School and traveled with the team to the 1948 National FFA Convention in Kansas City. So it is with great pleasure, and a true sense of coming home, that she accepted the position of Science teacher with the Agriculture Lab at our new Madera Technical Exploration Center.

The opening of MadTEC will mark Linda’s 37th year teaching science. Educated at Fresno State and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories she brings a background in Environmental Biology, Geology, and Marine Biology to the program. She began teaching in Gonzales, California before moving overseas to teach middle school and high school science at American / International Schools in Israel, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Romania, and Pakistan. Returning to the US after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, she taught for several years at Mariposa County High School before joining Madera Unified as a science teacher at Thomas Jefferson in the fall of 2006. In addition to teaching science at TJ, Linda served as Department Chair, on the school Leadership Team, and as a Robotics and Academic Pentathlon coach, bringing TJ’s first number one finish in the science superquiz.

Active in the California Teachers Association as a site representative, Linda also served on the local CTA Institute for Teachers Think Tank which brought an opportunity to join the Instructional Leadership Corps a group of teacher leaders sponsored by CTA and Stanford University who develop and deliver relevant professional learning opportunities. In this role, Linda worked with Jacob Mortier (vice-principal at Desmond) to provide workshops in Productive Academic Talk to Madera Unified and teachers all over California.

The introduction of the Next Generation Science Standards brought a new opportunity to Linda, that of the new role of District Academic Coach for Science. She served in this capacity for 4 years, first as a K-12 District Academic Coach, then working with elementary teachers to help increase awareness and competency with our new science standards. During this time she also served as a leader in science education at the State level, working as a representative on the California Partnership for Math and Science Education and as an elected regional representative on the Board of the California Science Teachers Association. 

For several years, Linda worked with the planning team for Madera Unified’s new project-based middle school, and when the opportunity came to apply for a teaching position there, she immediately applied. She thought the chance to create a new, innovative program and then live into that work was the opportunity of a lifetime. She was thrilled to be offered the job.

She was also deeply appreciative to the Madera Unified Board for providing the team the chance to work with Principal, Aly Rocco, and the rest of the MadTEC team for the 2019/2020 school year. What is being developed at MadTEC is innovative; very different than traditional classroom instruction. Working out how to blend instruction from multiple subject areas and curricula to create authentic projects grounded in industry and community is a major undertaking, fortunately, the team of 18 teachers is committed to this work and all bring expertise, creativity, and flexibility to this vital task. 

Linda and her husband, Mark Graves, live in Clovis where he has a home business restoring vintage machinery. Their garage and yard are full of drill presses, lathes and other large machines, including a working 1959 American LaFrance Fire Engine! They share their space with their adult children, four dogs, and two cats. 

Linda is a firm believer in the words of Simon Sinek: “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.” Linda is passionate about the opportunity Madera TEC brings to MUSD students.


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