Teacher Of The Year Connects With Her Students
Published: January 22, 2007 | 5341st good news item since 2003
A middle school teacher from Estes Park was named the Colorado Department of Education’s 2007 Teacher of the Year.
Susan Ryder, a 13-year teaching veteran, teaches language arts to seventh graders at Estes Park Middle School.
Even though she’s an English teacher, Ryder’s students learn through drawing, painting and talking through their feelings. Ryder said her teaching philosophy focuses on diversity.
She said she knows that in seventh grade, teenagers are still discovering their voice and learning who to entrust with their words.
“When you’re becoming an author you have to understand your own style and it has to be appreciated,” Ryder said. “I see that with middle school students a lot, if they don’t feel like you appreciate their authentic self, they don’t have any buy-in to what you’re doing in the classroom.”
Ryder said she’s very proud to be Teacher of the Year and her students seem to be even more proud of her. After her award announcement, students and staff congratulated her with colorful cards and a special assembly.
“I walked into the gym and had all my sixth, seventh and eighth graders on one side screaming, and sitting on the floor with big smiles were all the high school students I’d taught,” she said.
Ryder’s students said they love her because she really cares. One of her students said Ryder doesn’t just give out assignments; she gives options to fit everyone’s palettes.
“If you can take the time to get to know them and let them know that you’re a real person, you make tremendous gains,” Ryder said.
Ryder’s classroom motto is, “you are the author of your own life story.” Her students live that by writing a letter to themselves to be opened at their high school graduation.
“I really want my kids to become authors of their own life stories,” she said. “I think in middle school they have to start making decisions, they have to start thinking them through. They need to take a stand.”
Ryder has also worked in Alabama and Atlanta but she wanted to come to a small district where she could get involved with students’ families and activities.
“They make my job so easy and it’s just a blessing every day,” she said.
Ryder said a teacher’s biggest challenge right now is reaching every student, no matter their background or learning level. She often goes to the capitol to speak about education. She also expects to work on ideas with Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration.