Good News Blog


Friday, Mar. 20, 2009

You Made A Difference Awards

No less than 13 educators, one from each school district, in Licking County were honored with the “You Made A Difference” teaching award as given out by students.

Two among them are Lisa Preisser and Christina Sommerkamp.

Primary kindergarten teacher Lisa has been making a difference in students’ lives for over 20 years.

She said to be both surprised and humbled by it while her boss called the award well-deserved.

“The award is very well-deserved.

She is a wonderful, wonderful teacher with a really unique program.
— Dana Letts, kindergarten center principal

Christina is a fourth-grade teacher who was nomiated by a 10 year old student.

“She’s a great teacher, and she helps me learn a lot.

I couldn’t ask for a better teacher.”
— Christian Rader, 10, student Licking Heights South Elementary School

As a teacher of primary kindergarten in the Southwest Licking district, Lisa Preisser has been making a difference in countless young students’ lives over the past 20 years.

But this year, her good work with young 5-year-olds has received extra recognition.

Preisser is Southwest Licking School District’s recipient of the Coughlin Automotive You Made a Difference award.

“I was very surprised and humbled by this award,” Preisser said.

“The award is very well-deserved,” said kindergarten center principal Dana Letts. “She is a wonderful, wonderful teacher with a really unique program.”

In the Licking Heights district, student Christian Rader nominated fourth-grade teacher Christina Sommerkamp of Licking Heights South Elementary School.

“I was pleased, surprised, puzzled,” Sommerkamp said.

Rader couldn’t have been more pleased.

“She’s a great teacher, and she helps me learn a lot,” the 10-year-old said. “I couldn’t ask for a better teacher.”

It’s the 10th year that the You Made A Difference awards have been given out.

Recipients are chosen by students for making a difference. They write and hand in an essay about their nomination. The best nominations are in turn given to the disctricts’ superintendent.

Wednesday, Jul. 9, 2008

UK Teacher of the Year 2008 is…

FUN-LOVING Paul Johnson has scooped the title of the Scarborough Evening News Teacher of the Year 2008.
Mr Johnson, of Hinderwell School, was presented with the award after four of his pupils nominated him for the prestigious title.

Evening News editor Ed Asquith presented Mr Johnson with his certificate – and a cheque for £100 yesterday. His class is also set to enjoy a free trip to the Sea Life Centre which includes being picked up by a complimentary Shoreline Suncruisers open-top bus.

The 30-year-old, who lives in Hunmanby, said: “I am just so shocked. I have been nominated for this award for a few years and I never thought I would win it. It is fantastic. It is completely out of the blue.”

Mr Johnson has worked as a Year 5 teacher at the school for seven years. He also works as an advanced skills teacher which involves visiting other schools in the county once a week to offer cross-curricular teaching.

He was chosen as the winner because of his dynamic but educationally engaging approach to teaching, and based on the real way he has demonstrated that every child matters. Each term he picks a theme for his class and the curriculum is based around it. This term they are studying medieval times – and his classroom has a castle in one corner.

He also treated his class to a three-day trip to London earlier this year.

His nominators were Lucy and Emily Desborough, Rachel Laverick and Rebecca Miller. Classmate Callum Macdonald, 10, said: “He is the best teacher in the world and he deserves this. He is brilliant with us and he is just so funny. He tells lots of jokes which always make us laugh.”
Beth Lawty, nine, added: “Our classroom is the best ever. We have really enjoyed being in his class and I will miss him next year.”
See our website for the celebration video.

The Evening News would like to congratulate eight other teachers who made our Roll of Honour. They are:

Mr Smith from Gladstone Road Junior School, Mr Bateson from Snainton School, Miss Morris from Barrowcliff Junior School, Mr Dyer from Gladstone Road Infant School, Mrs Gortzak from Newby and Scalby School, Miss Atkinson from Scalby School, Mrs Elsdon from Raincliffe School and Mr Hobkinson from Newby and Scalby School.

School’s Teacher of Year uses river as a resource

Teacher Jill Wnuk believes middle school is not just about math, science and social studies: It is also about helping them discover what is really important in life.

“At this age,” she explains “the kids are so ‘all over the place.’ They’re growing up. So we really try to not just teach them subject matter, but also teach them about how to take responsibility and how to make a difference.”

So, just before the school year ended Wnuk’s students donned rubber gloves and picked up garbage bags and trekked down to the banks of the nearby Hockanum River which winds its way around the bend behind the school.

The tally after the day-long campaign: 30 bags of trash – cans, cardboard, plastic, bottles, boxes and even some corroded lengths of pipe that looked suspiciously like an old football goal post from back in the day when football captain and quarterback John Larson was helping his EHHS Hornets score touchdowns on the old high school field at what is now the town’s middle school.

“This is our second time cleaning up along the river,” related Wnuk. “It’s part of an environmental project that we started last year sponsored by [non profit] American Rivers. We keep doing it because (students) understand that it’s important to clean up their community.”

Students really “get it,” said East Hartford Middle School’s ‘Teacher of the Year’ for 2008-2009. “We have 100% participation. They all do it.”

From the baseball fields of Labor Field in Mayberry Village down to the Forbes Street bridge, little seemed to escape the determined middle school garbage avengers.

Teacher Wnuk worked to restrain the students’ eagerness for safety reasons. The kids were given gloves and instructed not to pick up anything they could not identify.

“We told them not to pick up glass. Anything questionable, don’t pick it up. Let an adult pick it up,” Wnuk said. “Last year we spent a whole day out here, and collected crazy things” she recalled. “Chairs, a boat, a dead cat, and big rolls of chain link fence – the kids dragged everything out [and] our custodians put everything away in the trash.”

Among other things, the teacher said, kids organized a cell phone recycling drive. They studied articles on global warming and solar energy, and wrote letters to state leaders about the problem. “Nobody answered,” Wnuk observed.

What was important is that the kids responded to the message of social responsibility and civic mindedness, she added.

“When we were on a field trip in Hartford we went to the State Capitol as part of that, and they were mentioning, when we drove down some street, they were like ‘look at all the trash.’ They don’t litter, and when someone drops something they pick it up.”

As for the “Teacher of the Year” award Wnuk said, while it was a surprise and an honor, the title for her is more about representing the school than a personal accolade. “It’s a team effort” she stressed.

EHMS Principal Pietro Cerone pointed out there was a big reason Wnuk was picked. “She’s very involved in school activities. She’s very involved in our school,” he said. “She runs the Student Council as well as the River Cleanup. And there are many other positive programs that she’s involved with. All of these are volunteer programs. We don’t ask her to do it. She’s a team leader.”

Tuesday, Jul. 8, 2008

Teacher strikes a winning chord

THE world may know only one Carlos Santana — the guitarist and rock musician — but at Mayflower Primary, there are quite a few of him, so to speak.

Thanks to “Project Carlos Santana”, :conceptualised by Mr Melvin Cher, the school’s acting subject head of art and aesthetics, every student is given the opportunity to learn to play the guitar.

For his innovation and passion in developing his students through music and aesthetics, Mr Cher received the Outstanding Youth in Education Award yesterday. He was one of three teachers to receive the National Youth Council award for educators under 30.

:Mr Cher, who joined the school three years ago, said: “What inspires me is being able to give a child the opportunity to grow and to develop. I see that happening in my music class — not so much through just learning an instrument, but the kind of discipline, values and disposition it inculcates.” :

:The school’s modular music programme goes beyond the recorder, keyboard or usual classical string instruments — students are exposed to a variety of world music.

:Mr Cher has also played an integral role in moulding the school’s Primary Five and Six music programmes, which started two years ago.

:Said Principal Zainal Sapari: “He is doing it for the kids, and he is very humble in terms of learning from his peers and his colleagues.”: :

:The other two recipients of the award are Mr Quek Swee Nee from Bukit View Primary and Ms Chua Hwee Pheng from Paris Ris Crest Secondary.

:The award is supported by the Teachers Network and is for educators who go beyond teaching the formal curriculum to nurture their pupils. Winners get a trophy and certificate, and will be fully sponsored to attend an overseas conference to further their professional development. :

:Education Minister Ng Eng Hen, who handed out the honours at the National Institute of Education Teachers’ Investiture Ceremony, said that new programmes will be introduced over the next two years to help teachers upgrade. He encouraged teachers to make the most of the opportunities.:

:These include a part-time Bachelor of Education programme specially customised for non-graduate primary school teachers; and a new Masters programme — the MTeach — which is currently in development and is expected to accept its first intake in 2010.

A total of 1,672 newly-qualified teachers will receive their NIE diplomas this week.

Tuesday, Jun. 3, 2008

Del Mar teacher wins excellence award

Candy Basso is strict, which is understandable because she teaches a class of 30 English Language Development students at Del Mar High School.

Once in a while, though, she will do something spontaneous and fun. When an ELD student asked her what an 8-foot giant was, Basso stood on a stool to demonstrate the height while the students laughed and stood up to compare their height with hers.

More than anything, Basso understands the importance of getting to know her ELD students. All of her students are first-generation immigrants, and many of them share similar problems, such as being separated from family members and having to worry about sending money back home. She makes an effort to know her students’ struggles at home to help her to empathize with them when they are struggling in school.

Basso’s teaching methods are just part of why she received the Excellence in Education award from the Goldin Foundation for Excellence in Education, a nonprofit organization established in 1990.

“We nominated her because she’s the chairman of our ELD program,” said principal Jim Russell. “Our test scores surpass the state standards significantly. Our program has exceeded the state targets for years, and we attribute it to Candy’s leadership, having selected the programs and putting it in place.”

Basso puts extra time and effort into the ELD program by ordering books, programs and new technology and showing teachers how to implement them into their lesson plans.

She also meets with the ELD students and their parents. Despite these efforts, she credits the teachers as the reason Del Mar’s ELD program is doing so well.

“We’re fortunate that we have good teachers and money from the state,” she said.

One of Basso’s most impressive endeavors is the book she co-authored, called Coming to America. The book, which has yet to be published, tells the inspiring stories of some of her immigrant students.

“It acknowledges them, who they are and their culture,” Basso said. “For me as a teacher it makes me more empathetic knowing, for example, that a student didn’t do his homework because he is paying rent. I think other people will learn from the stories.”

Basso wrote the book because she wanted to help other teachers gain a better perspective on ELD students. The book also offers tips for teaching ELD students. The top five tips are: Review vocabulary and pronunciation; use lots of visuals; discipline the bad students; encourage students to participate (some students come from countries where it is considered disrespectful to ask the teacher a question); and ask them to stay after class for help.

“I think she’s cool and the best teacher,” said freshman Jerusalem Bekele, who moved to the United States from Ethiopia nine months ago. “She prepares us for everything we know. She helps us with everything from homework to classwork.”

Thursday, May. 29, 2008

This is the Oscar of teaching

Jean Murphy and her students at Long Range Academy have a lot of fun with math.

It’s a subject not usually associated with laughs and smiling, but the long-time teacher’s approach to the material which has to be covered is working well.

It’s working so well, in fact, that the Cow Head teacher has garnered national recognition. On Thursday, she was one of three teachers from Atlantic Canada and 26 across Canada to receive the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Education. The award was presented at a gala ceremony in Ottawa.

“I didn’t expect to receive such an award but I was honoured,” she told the Pen on Thursday. “This is the Oscar of teaching…it’s been a great week.”

The awards program recognizes Canada’s best teachers and early childhood educators and promotes what they have achieved. The program also strives to share the teachers’ innovative and successful teaching practices.

Ms. Murphy, a native of Job’s Cove, Conception Bay, was selected from among more than 200 nominations across Canada.

She said it’s difficult to put into words her thoughts on winning the distinction.

“This is an honour for the school, the parents, the students and the community,” she said. “You can’t do this on your own. The whole community has to be part of the celebration.”

Ms. Murphy has been at Long Range Academy for 13 years and said she’s continually inspired by her students and the staff members she works with.

“Math hasn’t always been successful but math can be a lot of fun,” she explained. “When they like it, they can be more successful.”

She teaches numeracy in Kindergarten to Grade 6, mathematics in Grades 7 to 9 and technology in Grade 7. Her teaching approach involves providing a flexible teaching and learning environment with lots of group work and critical discussion.

Among her achievements was bringing academic success to students. There’s been a significant rise in marks on standardized tests, which had historically been low. She was appointed as a numeracy support specialist to provide professional development support to other teachers.

One of Ms. Murphy’s colleagues said, “Jean is not only student-driven, she strives to make our physical building a welcoming and safe place. She is very involved in the spirit building of our school and Jean eagerly volunteers for many teams and does so with the same enthusiasm and dedication as her teaching.”

A former principal at the school had this to say: “Ms. Murphy has made a significant contribution to education in this province, to the lives of the children she has taught and to the communities in which she has worked and volunteered…in every conversation I have had with Ms. Murphy, she always seems to have a default position regarding education and teaching. She always goes back to the same fundamental question, ‘How will this benefit students and how will it increase achievement’.”

Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte MP Gerry Byrne said he was proud to attend the ceremony.

“It is a remarkable achievement for Ms. Murphy and shows the depth and talent of the people who teach at this rural school on the Northern Peninsula,” he stated. “I was proud to stand with her as she accepted her award.”

Wednesday, May. 14, 2008

Teachers honored for educational efforts

Selina Meyer, of Indian Trail Elementary School, is the 2007-08 Kentucky Special Education Teacher of the Year. She teaches the self-contained Functional Mental Disability class at Indian Trail.

Rosanna Vessels, a theology teacher at St. Xavier High School, received the Catholic Education Foundation Teacher Award. Sponsored by Dan and Helen Ulmer and their family, the award goes to a teacher who surpasses expectations, has a creative teaching style and is a positive influence on students.

Mary W. Ludwig, of the Westport Teenage Parent Program School, was named the 2008 National Teacher of the Year by the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences. She received the award for a fashion program she implemented in 2000 for pregnant and parenting teens.

Tuesday, May. 13, 2008

Teacher wins $10K award

Western & Southern Financial Group named veteran teacher Kimya Moyo this year’s winner of the Dr. Lawrence C. Hawkins Educator of the Year Award, an honor than comes along with a no-strings-attached $10,000 check.

Moyo, a math teacher at Woodward Career Technical High School, beat out 54 other teachers and administrators in Cincinnati Public Schools who were nominated by their peers.

She was selected for her innovative approach to education and ongoing commitment to students, according to the company.

It’s the second year Western & Southern has given the award, after creating it last year to inspire the district’s individual educators.

Last year, Withrow University High School Principal Sharon Johnson won the award.

Tuesday, Apr. 1, 2008

Teacher nominated for journalism award

A SHEFFIELD (UK) schoolteacher found himself rubbing shoulders with sporting superstars when he was nominated for a top national journalism award.

Ian McNeilly, who teaches English at Brantwood School in Nether Edge, also runs a website in his spare time, which has been up and running for the last four years.

And for his writing on the site Ian was nominated in the Internet Sports Writer of the Year category at the British Sports Journalism Awards held in London.

Although he lost out to a writer from the BBC, Ian mixed with the cream of the national sporting press as well as sporting heroes like Lord Coe and Sir Bobby Charlton who presented the awards.

Winners on the night included Fleet Street heavyweights like James Lawton and Martin Samuel, as well as Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling.

“I was one of only two minnows to be nominated, if you like – with Pete McKee, who is a Sheffield Telegraph cartoonist,” said Ian, 36.

“But to be nominated was a real shot in the arm for me – after all I run the website from my bedroom purely as a hobby, and there are now thousands of bloggers and online writers out there.

“When I became interested in boxing it was very much a poor relation of the sport, and you could easily get access to the athletes involved. Now it is booming and I think my nomination was another feather in the cap for the sport.”

Monday, Feb. 25, 2008

Teacher in Fort Pierce gets national award

Indian River Community College adult education teacher Ed Musgrove thought he was going to hear about budget cuts when he and his adult education colleagues were called to a 9 a.m. meeting Friday. Instead, he learned he is getting a national adult education teaching award.

The room was quiet when IRCC President Ed Massey walked in. Massey then said he was there because of Musgrove.

“What did I do?” Musgrove asked from the front row.

It turns out Musgrove is getting the Edward M. Easley Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award from the Commission on Adult Basic Education at the commission’s national conference in St. Louis in April. He will get a plaque and $1,000 with the award.

“What a surprise,” Musgrove said.

He said afterward he didn’t know he had even been nominated for the award.

Musgrove, of Fort Pierce, has been teaching English as a Second Language classes at IRCC since 1992. He also developed a curriculum so his students could get take certified nursing assistant classes while learning English.

He said he enjoys his job and his students.

“I think the important thing is being able to see our second-language students develop the skills to help them be successful in the U.S.,” Musgrove said.

Musgrove credited his success to his colleagues.

“You’ve all been supportive and helpful. I do appreciate it,” he said.

Massey thanked Musgrove for his hard work.

“You don’t work for the recognition. (But) it’s great to get it,” he told Musgrove.

Suzanne Ensmann, director of adult education for IRCC, said Musgrove was selected because of his accomplishments at the college.

“The students come back and say they love him,” she said.

Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008

The world is this special teacher’s classroom

Patty Stone pulled a page out of an Atlas and began tracking the South American journey of her 25-year-old daughter, Sarah. A trail of yellow highlighter snaked through Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

A life of adventure has long appealed to Sarah Stone, and she spent most of 2007 trekking through Central and South America.

After graduating with a degree in psychology from the UNC Chapel Hill in 2005, Stone taught in Wilmington and worked with children with special needs. While she loved the area and her job, she wanted to explore the world before settling down into real life, she said.

“I wanted to do something exciting and a change of pace before becoming so career-oriented. I was able to combine teaching, which I love, with traveling,” said Stone, who spent a semester in Italy for a study-abroad program in college.

She and her boyfriend, Rhett Schools, also a teacher, enrolled in Transworld Schools in San Francisco in February 2006. It took a month to train to for certification in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages).

By March, they had started their travels in Guatemala, meandering down to Ecuador.

For one month, Stone lived in Costa Rica with her college roommate who was living there as part of a mission trip.

In May, she returned to Kernersville before heading back to South America. She began teaching in Cuenca, Ecuador, in August.

She was paid $250 a month.

“We were paid very little, but it was enough to survive. It is very easy to live on $2 a day there,” said Stone said.

A dollar paid for lunch. That would include a meat, salad, juice, rice and beans. Rent was $50 a month in a picturesque terra cotta colored street side apartment with turquoise shutters.

When Patty and John Stone visited their youngest child in November, they stayed in an upper-story apartment, paying $75 for one week’s visit. The luxurious hotel in Cuenca had a nightly rate of $50.

Life slowed to a different pace for Stone. She walked to school where she taught adults and children to speak English. She had no car and no television. She spent her days teaching, reading, cooking, shopping for fresh vegetables and fruits in the market and traveling.

Her hair grew long and wavy. Upon return to the U.S., Stone had her hairdresser cut off 10 inches to donate to Locks of Love to make wigs for cancer patients.

While learning about the culture of South America, Stone also took time to scuba dive while living in South America and received her master-scuba certification.

Born without her right hand, the certification process took extra diligence during the skills performance.

“I had to take all of the equipment off and put it back on underwater. They gave me a little extra time,” Stone said.

Visiting the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean was amazing, she said.

“She’s been figuring things out her whole life,” Patty Stone said. “I really admired her for going on such an adventure.”

Now that Stone is back in the United States, she is teaching English as a second language part time at Konnoak Elementary School in Winston-Salem while saving for her next round of travels. She plans to get her master’s degree and hopes to teach abroad again one day.

“I’d like to go back to South America, and I’d like to go to Asia,” Stone said. “I can’t see staying in one place my whole life.”

Teacher Helps Students Help Others

A former South Florida teacher of the year inspired her students to help others.

Mary Jane DeShong is a science teacher at Pembroke Pines Charter School. She said she has an undying passion to help others, which is why she formed TROOP.

“TROOP started two years ago with a group of kids that wanted to make a difference in society,” DeShong said. “TROOP stands for Teens Reaching Out to Other People. We started with 24 students and it has grown to over 75.”

Over two years, the students of TROOP have sent care packages to troops in Iraq, gone to nursing homes to help the elderly, gone to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital to spend time with sick children and mentored young students.

On Thursday, they were getting ready for an event for Locks of Love and the Make a Wish Foundation.

DeShong said that forming the group was her inspiration.

“This is something that was inspired by God, and I prayed on it,” she said. “It’s just something that has manifested into something it is now.”

While middle school students at the charter school are required to put in service hours, TROOP is not part of that. It is strictly volunteer.

“I’ve asked the kids, ‘Why? Why are you here? Why do you after school go to the nursing home or to Joe DiMaggio or spend an entire Sunday morning and afternoon down at FAU in Miami being huggers for the Special Olympics? What do you get out of it?” DeShong said. “And they said, ‘It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling. We do it because it makes us feel good, and we do it because it’s the right thing.'”

As a teacher, DeShong said she is in a position of influence.

“If I can influence the kids to give of themselves and to be compassionate, then I’ve done my job,” she said.

Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007

Successful student teacher program earns national award

St. Cloud State University’s co-teaching initiative – an idea so innovative it garnered a $5 million U.S. Department of Education grant in October of 2003 for its launch – has earned one of three coveted Christa McAuliffe Awards for Excellence in Teacher Education.

The national honor from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities annually recognizes the best teacher education programs and identifies promising practices in teacher preparation. The St. Cloud State model “changes the paradigm of student teaching,” according to Professor Nancy Bacharach, director of the university’s Teacher Quality Enhancement Center. By having the classroom teacher and the student teacher collaborate on every aspect of the learning experience, from planning to delivery, the co-teachers and students in the classroom all benefit, she said. “These shared learning experiences are the heart of the program’s success.”

While the student teacher in the co-teaching experience eventually has the opportunity to fully take charge of the classroom, it’s a more seamless approach since the cooperating teacher remains an active part of the classroom throughout the experience, Bacharach said.

In its first three years the co-teaching program, implemented in the fall of 2004, has brought together 583 pairs of student teachers and cooperating teachers in pre-school, elementary and secondary settings in 17 Central Minnesota school districts. St. Cloud State’s College of Education trains about 500 teachers and other education professionals annually.

Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007

Fun science teacher wins devotion, award

Twelve-year-old middle school student Max K. Dowd enjoyed helping fourth-graders decorate cupcakes to look like the sun while a student last year in Beth C. Craven’s science class.

The youngsters got to stick on M&Ms as sunspots. The older students also made presentations on the sun to the younger children.

Max said Craven keeps her students amused with frequent jokes.

“There’s so many it’s hard to think of a good one. Every day you’d laugh in that class,” Max said during a recent interview at Michael E. Smith Middle School.

Craven also always had something for her students to do and explained concepts so well he now likes science, according to Max. That prompted him and his mother, Beth A. Dowd, to nominate Craven for a teaching award and resulted in her being named Teacher of the Month for October by Country Bank and WHYN Radio in Springfield. The honor earned her various prizes as well as a $250 Savings Bond.

Craven said she sparked Max’s interest in science by encouraging him to keep asking questions.

The teacher, who grew up in Holyoke but now lives in South Hadley, is a graduate of Providence College in Providence, R.I., where she was on a soccer scholarship. Craven, 40, went on to get a master’s degree in physical education and administration of athletics from Norwich University in Northfield, Vt. While there, she was assistant coach of the swim and soccer teams.

She worked in Chicopee as a special education and computer and science teacher for seven years before taking time off to care for her twin daughters Allyson K. and Brianna M., who are now 10. She and her husband, Michael E. Craven, who teaches in Belchertown, are also the parents of Stephanie A., 9, and Nolan L., 2.

When Craven returned to teaching in 2002 she worked with severely emotionally disturbed children in the latency program in the alternative school in Holyoke. Because it was more behavior management than teaching, she said she moved on after a year to take a job at the middle school. She is now in her fifth year at Michael E. Smith Middle School, where she teaches sixth-grade creative writing and science.

Craven is involved in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Living with a Star program, which celebrates Earth’s relationship with the sun. She said she loves teaching science because it is constantly changing and she can get into issues like global warming.

“I think every student learns differently and it’s a matter of finding what works best for them individually. Obviously, we struck a chord with Max,” Craven said.

Max’s mother, Beth A. Dowd, said, “I think she is a wonderful motivator for students who may not truly enjoy science.”

She pointed to how Craven has set out questions of increasing difficulty like the “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire” television show on her Web site.

“She has a great way with students,” Dowd said.

Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007

Newport teachers win grants for excellence

The Newport Public Education Foundation has announced the award of almost $20,000 in Teacher Excellence Grants during the current school year for special projects in and outside the classroom.

When teachers have an idea for a project that requires extra funding, they can apply to the foundation for assistance. The foundation, an independent nonprofit organization, has distributed more than $150,000 in grants since it was founded in 1991.

“We are very proud of the creativity and ingenuity shown by Newport Public Schools staff in their submissions,” said Jane Regan, former principal of Thompson Middle School and a foundation trustee, in a prepared statement. “We are confident that implementation of these high quality grants will enrich the education and lives of Newport Public School students and the community.”

Regan said teachers at all levels of instruction will receive financial support for projects in all curricular areas including literacy, science, music, art, drama, health, social studies, math and vocational education.

Several of the programs will allow staff to provide students with live theater performances, visits to community and historical sites and participation in after-school instruction or clubs.

Grants were awarded to the following individuals and groups:

Margie Brennan at Underwood School for the “Underwood Garden Project.”

Glenna Johnson at Sullivan School for “Making Meaning For Language Learners.”

Nicole Silvia at Carey School for “Art In History.”

Michael Franco at Coggeshall School for “Fantastic

Fast Math.”

Kathleen Breede at Coggeshall School for “After The Bell.”

Lori Fedyszyn and Becky Bolan at Coggeshall School for “Kids In The Arts.”

Stacy Lyon at Coggeshall and Cranston-Calvert schools for “Rhode Island Children’s Book Award 2007-2008.”

Jennifer Booth at Cranston-Calvert School for both “Digital Storytelling” and “Birthday Library.”

Melissa Turner representing all elementary schools with both “It’s About Time Math Made Cents” and “Just The Facts.”

Elizabeth Gibbs, Beth Small and all grade-seven teachers at Thompson Middle School for a cross disciplinary study of hatching chickens.

Tracey Hackley at Thompson Middle School for “Middle STEP.”

Jean Wickenden at Thompson Middle School for “Pirates and Privateers in Colonial Newport.”

Tara Mello and Grade 7 Cluster 2 at Thompson Middle School for “Investigation Into Immigration.”

Vikki LePree at Thompson Middle School for “Honors Chorus.”

Larry Mauk at Thompson Middle School for “TMS After school Jazz Band.”

Candace Lewia at Thompson Middle School for “Science Fair.”

Jim Cawley at Thompson Middle School for “Fit For Life.”

Alan Bernstein at Rogers High School for “RHS Arts Showcase.”

Corey Johnson at Rogers High School for “Chorus Club.”

Barbara Wunderler at Rogers High School for “RHS Art Club.”

Scott Dickison at Rogers High School for “Robotics Continues.”

In conjunction with Island Moving Co. for all third-grade students to see “The Nutcracker.”

In conjunction with Salve Regina University to plan the reading exposition “March Into Madness.”

A joint yearlong art study project between the Newport public schools Art Department and Rough Point.

Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007

Tacoma teacher honored with Holocaust educator award

His students have met Holocaust survivors and seen former Nazi concentration camps in Poland with their own eyes.

Charles Wright Academy history teacher Nick Coddington wants to make sure the teenagers in his classes will be willing to stand up against genocide wherever they encounter it. On Tuesday, Coddington, a 45-year-old Tumwater resident, received national recognition for his teaching work.

He received the Robert I. Goldman Award for Excellence in Holocaust Education from The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous. Based in New York City, the foundation provides financial assistance to older and needy non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, the foundation’s Web site states. It also educates teachers and students about the history of Holocaust and rescue.

“He’s really able to connect his students in a very unique way to the events of history and current events and all with a focus on where your life is going to take you,” Althea Cawley-Murphree, a Charles Wright spokeswoman, said of Coddington. “He wants all of his students to be prepared if they ever have an opportunity to stand up.”

Coddington is in his third year as a high school teacher after spending 21 years in the Army, where he witnessed the effect of genocide in Bosnia. When he began thinking about how to design a 20th century history course for high school freshman, he wanted genocide to be a theme that connected the entire curriculum. Doing so would help teach students about tolerance, cultural awareness and diversity, Coddington said.

“It’s about just seeing people as people and not necessarily as different,” he said.

The Washington State Holocaust Research Center in Seattle helped Coddington develop the curriculum

which covers genocides in Armenia, Russia, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur

and helped him find survivors who came to talk to his students.

“This is the last generation that will hear the survivors” of the Holocaust, Coddington said. “These students now will be the ones to tell the stories years from now.”

Last fall, Coddington attended a weeklong training session at Columbia University with educators from across the United States and Europe who teach about the Holocaust. His roommate was from Swidnik, Poland, and they decided to create an exchange program in which 12 Charles Wright students traveled to Poland to participate in the annual Holocaust Remembrance Week. The students visited three concentration campus during their trip.

“I don’t know if they really grasp what they’ve been exposed to, but I think they will in the years to come,” Coddington said. “We’re teaching them to learn to care about other people, and I don’t think there’s anything more noble I could do as a teacher. … I think by taking kids on trips and meeting survivors, they learn to care, and I think that’s everything.”

He propels his pupils to appreciate science

Michael Lampert tells his microelectronics class he’s changing the lesson plan.

“I just happen to have a little liquid nitrogen with me,” the West Salem High School teacher says with a grin.

For this class, he’ll demonstrate how LEDs (light-emitting diodes) change color in extreme cold and how a small ceramic disk becomes a superconductor when immersed in the liquid.

Later, for a less-intense astronomy class, he’ll use the liquid nitrogen — which is minus 200 degrees Celsius — to make ice cream.

“This liquid is as cold as the surface of Neptune,” he says.

The demonstrations highlight Lampert’s skill at bringing science to life and his ability to tailor lessons to different learning levels.

“He’s just a master to watch in the classroom as he instills in students a real interest in science,” principal Ed John says.

Lampert’s students know he doesn’t just teach science. He lives it. Lampert, 48, has launched weather balloons in Antarctica to study ozone depletion. He helped install an infrasound listening station in Africa that can detect nuclear explosions. Now, he’s helping to write curriculum and design the website to go with the new PBS show Wired Science.

Always, he finds ways to share his adventures with his students, through online journals, community talks and demonstrations.

“He goes over and above the regular curriculum to make these enrichments for students. He’ll go the extra step to get grants to fund all of these kids’ extra research,” says parent Laurie Gille. She says Lampert’s work with weather balloons inspired her daughter’s honors research project in using balloons to gather information on micrometeorites.

Lampert was in his final year of a doctoral program in physics, just needing to complete his thesis, when he felt the call of teaching.

At first, he found it difficult.

“I was coming out of a research world, from doing quantum physics and thermodynamics, to working with some kids who couldn’t add and subtract,” he says.

But he decided that if he was going to teach, he would be the best teacher he could be. That meant keeping a smile on each day and getting to know each child.

Now, he calls his students his extended family.

Lampert keeps his classroom open at least one afternoon a week for students to work on their projects, which he mentors. He coaches the robotics team and academic teams, including Science Bowl, Ocean Bowl and High Five.

“He spends really late nights coaching teams, tutoring children, a lot of extra things many teachers don’t do,” says nominator Maureen Foekl, first-grade teacher at Chapman Hill Elementary School next door. “I just think he really wants people to succeed. He wants students to feel really good about themselves. He goes out on a limb for everybody that requires a little help or assistance.”

His connection with students shows on the walls of his classroom, which are plastered with years’ worth of news clippings, framed awards, pictures of science projects and student work — including an animal drawing by former student Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite fame.

That dedication pays off for Lampert’s students. They’ve twice won the Toshiba ExploraVision contest for work developing a prosthetic arm that can sense touch and using biosensing technology to treat attention deficit disorder. And they made it to the finals in the Lemelson-MIT Inventeam contest for a watermelon-ripeness evaluator.

“He’s not in this for the glory, but for the best education for his students,” Gille says.

Lampert also has made it a goal to seek out grants for the school — accumulating more than $250,000 in awards throughout his career.

“He has probably received more grants, and more significant money amounts, than anyone I know,” says John, the principal.

And he started science outreach into the middle and elementary schools. One program he started puts high school students into the elementary schools — including Foekl’s classroom — to teach physics. “Due to Michael’s efforts, the middle school and elementary schools now have a robotics team that is involved in regional competitions,” John says.

Lampert sees his role as opening doors to science careers for everyone, especially girls and minorities. With more than 20 years of experience, he has seen teaching trends come and go. “The only thing that’s successful with these kids is to be one-on-one with them and talk to them. That’s the secret to bringing out learning,” he says.

Lampert has made a big impression on microelectronics student Ian Love, 15. “Once, he used a high-voltage transformer that took wall current, stuck both electrodes into a hot dog and fried the hot dog,” Ian says. “It was like an electrocution of the hot dog. I can’t wait to take his physics class next year.”

Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2007

Teacher of year praised

The best part about being in second-grade teacher Michael B. Flynn’s classroom is learning about air pressure, according to 7-year-old Molli A. Loud.

For Jonathan M. Walker, 7, also a student in Flynn’s class at the William E. Norris School, the best part is that Flynn “teaches a lot.”

And for Katelyn A. Pickunka, 7, of Westhampton, it’s all the exciting activities Flynn does, such as yesterday’s experiment in which he used a bike tire pump to shoot soda bottles across his classroom, illustrating the results of increased air pressure.

The really big excitement yesterday at Norris School was the declaration that it was Michael B. Flynn Day both in Southampton and Northampton where Flynn lives and is a member of the School Committee.

The school community held a party yesterday evening to honor Flynn who is the 2008 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. Both the Southampton Board of Selectmen and Northampton Mayor Mary Clare Higgins declared it Michael B. Flynn Day in those communities.

Flynn, 32, the father of four young children and husband of Theresa M. Flynn, was a student teacher at Norris School in 1997 and never left. Yesterday, said he is getting used to the attention that Teacher of the Year has brought to his classroom and enjoying the state-of-the-art technology the school obtained as a result.

“The nature of this job is to focus on the kids. We (teachers) are not looking for any kind of attention. Now, it’s a different feeling,” Flynn said.

Being Teacher of the Year doesn’t mean he’s the best teacher in the state, Flynn said.

“It’s about someone who represents what good teaching is all about. There is great teaching happening all over. I’m happy to shed light on that,” Flynn said.

Principal William E. Collins, who nominated Flynn for Teacher of the Year, said Flynn “is the epitome of what is

Teachers recognized with awards

The West Aurora School Board will present two of its teachers with its version of the Golden Apple Awards on Nov. 19.

Jewel Middle School physical education teacher Sue Ludwigs and Kim Zenz, an instrumental music teacher and band director based at Herget Middle and Schneider Elementary schools, will be honored.

There will be a reception for the two at 5:30 p.m., followed by a 6 p.m. award presentation at West Aurora High School, 1201 W. New York St., Aurora.

West Aurora’s Golden Apple Award recognizes and honors outstanding teachers who have “gone above and beyond” the high expectations established for their positions.

Friday, Oct. 26, 2007

Bellevue teacher’s blend of science honored

Thursday’s science lesson in Paula Fraser’s fifth-grade class at Stevenson Elementary involved testing human enzymes.

But the question Fraser posed to her students was a broader one: “What does it mean to be a human being?”

That kind of merging of science and philosophy to expand students’ minds beyond the lesson at hand has earned Fraser the first Walter P. Kistler Science Teacher of the Year award by the Foundation for the Future.

The award, which comes with a $5,000 prize, recognizes science teachers who develop and teach science-based programs about the future of humanity.

Stevenson Elementary Principal Brenda Naish said Fraser has a gift for getting children excited about learning.

“She talks about philosophy and democracies, and the reason why people behave and act the way they act,” Naish said. “It’s so exciting to be in her classroom. Students come away with this belief in the power of learning for learning’s sake.”

Fraser, who teaches fifth-graders in the Bellevue School District’s PRISM program for highly capable students, said her goal is to make sure her students go on to think for themselves and make informed decisions. She said she is honored by the award but feels a little embarrassed by the attention.

“There’s a lot of people out there who work hard,” she said.

A teacher for 24 years, Fraser has been honored nationally before. She won the 1999 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the Christa McAuliffe Award for Excellence in Education, and the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Award on genetics, genomics and “genethics” for Washington state in 2000.

She also helped the Foundation for the Future start the Young Scholars program, which taps students to research and report on global issues.

“Paula Fraser is a national treasure,” said Sesh Velamoor, foundation deputy director. “Our hope, in creating this award, is to encourage more science teachers across the country to be innovative and courageous in developing scientific content for their students.”

The foundation was started in 1996 by Walter Kistler, a Swiss-born physicist who started several Swiss and U.S. technology companies, including Kistler Aerospace in Kirkland. Kistler established the Bellevue-based, nonprofit foundation to study the long-term future of humanity.

Fraser will receive the teaching award at a presentation ceremony Nov. 2.

Other Walter P. Kistler awards are given annually for science-based books and documentaries. The Kistler Prize honors a scientist or research institution for contributions to understanding the connections between genetics and society, and includes a $100,000 prize.

Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2007

High school teacher honored for his unique style

On the day Jeff Peterson was to start talking about one of America’s greatest scandals, the Merrimack High social studies teacher popped a homemade cassette tape into a boom box and held a contest.

Name the songs or the artists playing on the tape, he told his students. Bonus points for identifying what the tunes have in common.

It was mix of Queen’s “Bicycle Race,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” Randy Newman’s “Mr. President” and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” that Peterson used to introduce his class to the big topic: Watergate.

For his unique teaching ideas and many other reasons, Peterson was awarded the NoBell Prize last week. Senior members of the school’s National Honor Society selected him for the award, which was instituted years ago by an anonymous couple that wanted to reward underappreciated teachers.

To Peterson, being honored June 15 was “totally unexpected,” he said. And accepting the $6,000 prize was especially bittersweet. He’s leaving Merrimack to head up Alvirne High School’s social studies department.

That move, Peterson said, is largely to return to his home turf. He lives in Hudson, and his children will go through its school system.“I know I’m stepping into a different role, and that’s a little scary, but the important thing is to remember it’s all about the kids,” Peterson said.

And at Merrimack, he even reached out to students who weren’t in his classes, said Kellyn Freed, 18.

When she was working on a project about Alice Paul for another teacher during her junior year, Peterson lent her a tape on the feminist pioneer.

Freed testified to Peterson’s dead-on Swedish and French accents, and her classmate, Abby Brunelle, touted his John F. Kennedy impersonation.

“It makes you more apt to tune in to what he’s teaching,” Freed said. And, it seems, the accents fight Peterson’s biggest pet peeve.

“I hate it when people say history is boring,” Peterson said. “History is more bizarre and exciting than fiction could ever be.”

His love of history is rooted in family. Peterson said his grandfather drove a Model T Ford and ran a 5-and-dime store. During the Depression, his grandfather gave away merchandise without collecting any cash. Peterson’s dad fought in World War II and liberated two concentration camps.

His appreciation for those men drew him off the law school path and into the classroom.

Peterson spent two years at a parochial school in Connecticut before accepting a job at Alvirne, where he taught for eight years before transferring to Merrimack in 2003.

There, he taught mostly United States history and American government classes to juniors and seniors. He also advised several clubs, including Random Acts of Kindness, a community service group, and Students Against Drunk Driving.

Peter Petrigno, who heads Merrimack’s English department, said Peterson will be missed.

The feeling, Peterson said, is mutual, but he looks forward to playing music and scouring YouTube for innovative ideas to present to Alvirne students next year.

“I get a lot of personal satisfaction seeing kids grow and develop into thoughtful, mature people,” he said. “It’s very rewarding.”

Tuesday, Jul. 10, 2007

Doing good an important lesson to learn early

Deana Butcher has faith in good deeds.

The Kickapoo teacher runs a Pay it Forward club with the premise to recognize, promote and perpetuate kindness.

This week, club members catered a luncheon for 100 students who have shown kindness during the school year. Each teacher nominated one student.

“Someone may turn cash that they found into the office. Someone may return a backpack they found. Someone else holds a door open for a handicapped child. Someone else may clean up trash. We try to return these good deeds by letting the child know we appreciate how s/he made the world a little bit better,” Butcher explained in an e-mail.

Friday, Jul. 6, 2007

Math teacher surprised in classroom with honors

Jessieville High School math teacher Sherman Cutrer was named Teacher of the Year by the Wal-Mart Store on Highway 7.

Wal-Mart’s award is chosen through student nominations. More than 100 nominations were submitted, but community coordinator Debbie Bryant said it was obvious from the start who stood out.

“We have a little box set up for people to nominate and at the end of it, we had a committee read over all the nominations,” Bryant said. “Once we narrowed it down to three, we discussed it with Robert Neilson, our store manager, and he helped us make the decision.

“We pretty much knew that Mr. Cutrer was the one, just by the letters. Some of the letters said the same thing, that they always hated math and that Mr. Cutrer told them once they took his class, they would love it and it turned out to be true.”

Students Sharee Clark and Danton Robertson were instrumental in Cutrer’s award, writing particularly poignant nomination letters. Both wrote on Cutrer’s ability to teach math to those who have always hated the subject.

Cutrer finds a way to make algebra, geometry and trigonometry interesting and fun, say his students and colleagues.

“It’s one of those awards he will tell you he doesn’t deserve,” said Jessieville High School principal Steve Wright. “But he’s an outstanding teacher and the kids love to be in his classes.

“We’re certainly proud of Mr. Cutrer and he is most deserving of this award.”

Superintendent George Foshee said it’s the effort and attention to detail that make Cutrer so well respected.

“He’s a fantastic math teacher,” said Foshee. “It’s because he cares so much about the kids, that’s how he comes across to them and the detail he goes through to make sure they understand.”

Neilson and other employees surprised Cutrer last week in class with cakes, balloons, a “Teacher of the Year” t-shirt, $100 gift card and a $1,000 check made out to Jessieville School in Cutrer’s name.

Because of this honor, Cutrer will now be considered for the statewide Arkansas Teacher of the Year award.

Thursday, May. 31, 2007

Teacher Inspires a New Beginning for Student

As one man’s career is ending, another man’s is beginning and they couldn’t be more proud of each other.

The man just beginning is Irving Figueroa, a recent Bowman High School graduate, who read a piece of his work to a crowd full of poetry lovers, teachers and friends at College of the Canyons last week.

His favorite teacher from Bowman – Richard Weekley, a highly acclaimed published poet and well-respected literary figure in his own right – came to watch, even though it was his wedding anniversary.

Figueroa was grateful and the feeling was compounded when Figueroa’s own father, typically a quiet and detached man, showed up to listen to his son’s work – something he had not done before.

On stage was a boy who had less than a year before been ditching class so much that he was kicked out of Hart High School and considered a failure.

Back then, a Hart High administrator looked at his transcript and tossed it aside “as if it was foul,” Figueroa said.

However, these days, he is winning awards for his moving poetry and had his choice of universities to attend. He attends every class and he dreams of being not just a college student, but instead “an exceptional one,” he said.

“I never thought I’d go to a community college,” Figueroa said. “Now I have all of these opportunities.”

He hopes to become a teacher, just like Weekley who had inspired him to express his pain, joy and confusion in eloquent words.

“One day, if we’re speaking ideally, I’d like to teach at Hart. I want to become so qualified it would be a shame to turn me down,” he said.

It would be returning full circle – going back to the school he was forced to leave, returning as an accomplished instructor.

And as Figueroa’s future is just unfolding, his inspirational teacher is retiring.

Weekley, a favorite teacher at Bowman High School who has taught creative writing for 14 years, is retiring next week after nearly 40 years of teaching in the William S. Hart Union High School District.

In that time, he’d seen students transform themselves from shy, troubled students to people who beam at how well they articulated their feelings.

“That’s my excitement, to see them open that door,” Weekley said. “I don’t put anything inside of them. It’s already there.”

He said there is a bit of a flame in each student and he gives them the space to let that flicker turn into “an explosion of joy” – something he takes no credit for.

At a recent special recognition award ceremony, Weekley told the audience that “Irving has way of managing and twisting the form until it shines, vibrates and insists that the reader give it another look.”

For example, in a poem about a peach tree, Figueroa described how his father trimmed back a messy tree to the point that it could never produce fruit again.

It was a metaphor for punishment, sadness and abortion all at the same time.

Weekley had read Figueroa’s poems out loud, with proud, dramatic impact. And there are students across the campus who have felt the same passion from their teacher.

At the school’s widely celebrated Day of the Poet, student Cathy Prieto asked to speak at the very end of the ceremony.

“Not many teachers have made an impact on me the way you have. Thanks to you I now see everything in a different perspective, I think differently, I write so much better,” Prieto said, among a litany of other gracious remarks.

Weekley later wrote that, “If just half of what Cathy spoke of happened I’d be more than happy.”

Wednesday, May. 23, 2007

Vermont Teachers Honored By White House

Two Vermont teachers are given the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Two Vermont teachers have been honored by President George W. Bush for their work in the classroom.

Bush named Barre Town science teacher Valerie Collins and Pomfret School math teacher Jennifer Hewitt recipients of the 2006 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science teaching.

Collins and Hewitt are among 93 teachers from around the United States to be honored. They’re the only teachers from Vermont to receive the award.

For winning, Collins and Hewitt will each get $10,000 from the National Science Foundation and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. for a week’s worth of celebratory events and professional development activities.

Geometry teacher: Success is all in the mind

In Joe Monachino Sr.’s geometry class, it’s not just about recalling that the square of the hypotenuse of a triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of its sides.

Beyond theorems and number-crunching, he said he’s trying to teach a logical progression of thought that geometry provides.

“Our job is to get them to think,” said the St. Pius X High School teacher. “It’s about process, it’s not about answers.”

Monachino was recently awarded the Christa McAuliffe Pioneer in Education Award from the Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce after his 47 years of teaching experience, most of it at St. Pius X and North Kansas City High School.

“It’s been a good run,” Monachino said.

He said part of the reason he’s been teaching so long is because of other roles he has served, including assistant principal, school disciplinarian and coach of sports, including football and basketball.

The award means more to him than his election to the Missouri High School Football Coaches’ Hall of Fame, which he said was an honor shared among many people who helped him along the way.

While many had a role in his development as a teacher, he said he felt this was a recognition of a more individual effort.

As society changed all around him over 50 years, he said children remain basically the same, even with new distractions like cell phones and iPods.

“The kids really don’t change at the ages of 14 to 17,” he said.

That said, he remembered asking one of his classes this year why their grades were lower than all his other classes. Their answer? He said they couldn’t focus as much on academics because they were more “social” than their counterparts.

After teaching more than 40,000 people, he said he just hopes to have some impact on their lives.

He recalled a champion pole-vaulter caught smoking years ago.

Back then, if you were caught smoking or drinking, you didn’t play, he said.

“He never made a fuss,” while serving his suspension, Monachino recalled.

Monachino remembered thinking the policy was a little strict, but years later he met the pole vaulter in a grocery store.

“I just wanted you to know, I don’t smoke anymore,” he remembered the athlete telling him.

Sophomore Frank Orallo said Monachino is probably the best teacher he’s ever had, saying his years of coaching give him an ability to relate to people.

“It’s just his personality,” Orallo said. “He’ll apply that to his teaching.”

Monachino has been teaching so long that his son, Joe Monachino Jr., is now his boss — the principal of St. Pius X High School.

The younger Monachino, who came on as principal after his father was already on the staff, said his father’s passion led him into a career in education.

“He’s definitely the reason why I do what I do,” he said.

Father and son say there isn’t any strangeness about the situation.

“It’s completely different inside and outside the building,” said the elder Monachino, who admits he calls his son “Mr. Monachino” at school.

Monachino, 70, remembered thinking that this would be his last year of teaching going into it.

“I’m going one more year,” he said. “I can’t think of anything I would enjoy more.”

Tuesday, May. 22, 2007

Creativity in classrooms earns woman top honor

You never know what to expect when you walk into Keitt Easterling’s classroom: whether it be a child in a chicken hat or students sitting around a table designing a board game about global warming.

It’s her constant creativity, energy and enthusiasm that administrators say earned Easterling the district’s Teacher of the Year award Thursday.

Easterling teaches students in the district’s gifted-and-talented program at Sampit Elementary and Plantersville Elementary Schools.

“Wow! Thank you so much. This is such an honor. I’m speechless, really,” gushed Easterling to a crowd of over 100 teachers, principals and school officials.

Easterling was chosen out of 17 school-wide teachers of the year, and five district finalists, by a special interview committee.

Sampit Elementary School Principal Maudest Rhue-Scott said, “I’m so excited. She is the most deserving. She is a super, fantastic teacher.

“She is very challenging. She has very high expectations in her lessons. She is able to incorporate all of these things into one experience.”

During the ceremony, attendees were able to see Easterling in action. A video of a recent lesson plan aired in the background as the five finalists for the award were named.

On screen, fourth-grade students wearing hamburger and chicken hats burst onto the classroom’s set, taping a commercial for a restaurant they named “The Meating Place.”

“Students had written and created their own commercial to sell a product using props I had given them,” Easterling said.

“It incorporates creative design, writing, communication and earlier in the year we had worked on public speaking,” she said.

For Easterling, teaching runs in the family.

Her mother was a teacher, along with her sister.

Another sister, Macon Warren, is a guidance counselor at Carvers Bay High School.

“It’s never dull with her,” Warren said. “She’s always needed an audience and needed to perform ever since I’ve known her.

“She’s always coming up with these crazy, creative ideas. Everything is very hands-on to make it come alive for the students.”

As the Georgetown County Teacher of the Year, Easterling will compete for S.C. Teacher of the Year for 2007-2008.

As the district’s top teacher, Easterling won a Dell computer, $2,000 from the school district and other monetary awards from the district’s corporate sponsors. Next year, Easterling will help to lead the district’s monthly teacher forums and mentor new teachers.

Retiring Educator Named Teacher Of The Year

After 40 years of teaching, a Tulsa educator is going out on a high note. The Lee Elementary kindergarten teacher is being named Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year in elementary education. The News on 6’s Heather Lewin reports this will be a bittersweet goodbye.

“I’ve been a kindergarten teacher since 1967, so this is my 40th year,” said

Just walking in to Mrs. Creekpaum’s kindergarten classroom brings back memories. It doesn’t matter if she wasn’t your teacher, it’s just the feeling you get surrounded by art supplies, the alphabet and seeing someone do something they love. That must be why she still stays in touch with so many former students.

“It’s very humbling and very special, you see them from the time they’re little and then they grow up, and they’re moms and dads, and you’re proud of them because they’ve done so well,” said Creekpaum.

Creekpaum has also done well. Her years of hard work are being recognized statewide. She says the most important part of her job is building a foundation that will keep kids learning for life.

“I think when we do some kind of a skill or some type of an activity and I see the light come on and they say, ‘I got it!’ and you’re going, yes!” she said.

Although she’s sad to go, there are a couple of things she won’t miss quite as much.

“It’ll be nice not to have to do lesson plans. Yes!” Creekpaum said.

But she says it with mixed emotions, now headed for an endless summer.

“It’s not the end. It’s kind of the beginning of some exciting new things. God has been so good to me and my family, and we have our health, and we’re blessed in so many ways. I think we’re going to enjoy this time to do some fun things,” she said.

Mrs. Creekpaum will receive her award Saturday in Oklahoma City along with $7,500. She plans to donate $1,000 to the school, then do some traveling.

Teacher’s passion for education never stops

The dry-erase board in Hue Tran’s classroom is filled with past tense verbs — ate, bought, cried — and her middle-school students are excited to make the list longer and longer.

They offered ‘‘drank,” ‘‘fried,” ‘‘taught” as answers to Tran’s challenge: How many past tense verbs can you think of?

‘‘It must be the end of the year, you’ve learned so much,” Tran told her students at Takoma Park Middle School on Monday morning. Her class that day is a Multidisciplinary Educational Training and Support (METS) reading class of students who have had ‘‘interrupted educations,” many due to recent immigrations.

The methods she uses there to prepare them to join the mainstream student population led her peers to nominate her for an award to honor her efforts.

Tran was presented with the 2006-2007 Outstanding English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Teacher Award Saturday, a title given each year by the county’s division of ESOL⁄bilingual programs.

‘‘I’ve never won anything before in my life,” Tran said, giving most of the credit to her mentor and friend Karen Shilling, a fellow ESOL teacher at the school.

Shilling, who nominated Tran and collected at least 15 letters from her students for the application, said Tran ‘‘never stops.” She even continues teaching her students outside the classroom as well, Shilling said. Tran makes sure they get on the right bus, have their forms filled out for field trips and makes herself available day and night for homework and personal help.

‘‘She’s an advocate for her kids,” Shilling said. ‘‘They really believe they can accomplish anything with her help. … They rise to the occasion, because of her.”

Her students agree.

‘‘She works really hard trying to teach us,” said seventh-grader Natasha Portolano, 13, a native of Ukraine.

‘‘When she explains something, and she knows we understand, she gets very happy. She’s a very lively person,” said seventh-grader Brenda Zavala, 13, who moved here from El Salvador.

Tran, who lives in Silver Spring with her husband and two children, has been at the middle school for five years. Before that, she worked as an ESOL teacher for 10 years in Philadelphia to meet a demand for teachers of predominantly Asian students. Tran herself came to the United States from Vietnam when she was 5 years old.

‘‘I came to teaching because of them,” Tran said of her students in Philadelphia.

Coming to Takoma Park was a challenge, she said, as she was expected to teach not only ESOL students, but students in the school’s METS program.

Tran is now the director of the METS program at Takoma Middle. Many of her students come from rural backgrounds, started schooling later in life than most at the school, or have been separated from their parents. Most come from African or Latin American countries.

Tran said while she only knows ‘‘survival Spanish,” English and her native Vietnamese, she manages to communicate with the classroom just fine.

‘‘These students, they really do need you,” she said. ‘‘If you have other things going on in your life, if there are problems at home and you don’t have everything on a silver plate, having a teacher to go to and a safe place to learn is really important. It really makes the difference.”

Karen Woodson, the county’s director of the division of ESOL⁄bilingual programs, said Tran was highly regarded among her peers, who knew of her commitment to children.

Principal Renay Johnson said she was even more impressed with Tran when she found out she was working to become a National Board Certified teacher. Tran said she recently submitted a portfolio to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards with extensive entries on her teaching style, the children’s needs and applying her theories to practice.

The process has taken Tran two years to complete, and she should find out in November whether she has received certification.

‘‘I really focused on what I did that makes the students feel comfortable. That’s most important, to learning a language better,” Tran said. ‘‘It’s all very rewarding. These students, they really do want to learn, and really want to please you.”

Zabala agreed.

‘‘When you do well, she just goes up, up, up! I really do love this teacher.”

Monday, May. 7, 2007

Honored teacher draws life lessons from speech condition

Marjorie Brown recently was named Educator of the Year at the Shasta Damboree’s community awards banquet, after a sixth-grader praised her as an inspirational teacher who doesn’t let her speech condition get in her way. Brown, who teaches fifth grade at Grand Oaks Elementary School in Shasta Lake, has spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological disorder that affects her voice. She retires next month after 19 years in the classroom.

Q: The student who nominated you said you were an inspiration. What do you make of that?

I am just very honored to receive the award because there are many teachers who are deserving. I hope I inspire all my students. When I was in college, because of my speech problem, one of my professors said, “You should not be a teacher.” What I want my students to realize is that things can be rough, things aren’t always smooth, but don’t give up.

Q. What would you like people to know about spasmodic dysphonia?

I’m wanting to promote an awareness of this disorder. It is misdiagnosed over and over. I was 35 when I first started having problems, and it took me eight years (to get a diagnosis). I got my teaching credential when I was 46. I went back to college with this disorder. I’ve got spasmodic dysphonia, but it doesn’t have me.

Q. Is it difficult to get your students to accept you?

Actually, no. At the start of the year, I walk into the room, introduce myself and say, “I have a speech condition. If you would like to know more about it, you can stay in at recess and I’ll explain it to you.”

Q. What else can you tell us about it? Is it fatiguing?

I was involved in two studies at the National Institutes of Health. They think it’s genetic, but they can’t prove it. It does take more effort because my vocal cords are not stopping the air, so I’m losing more air. In the beginning, I can remember getting dizzy, hyperventilating. Sometimes I have to slow down. I believe it makes my students better listeners.

Q. Are there tasks that are particularly difficult for you?

Using the phone is a major obstacle because people can’t always understand me.

Q. What do you like best about teaching?

I love to work with kids. When the light bulb goes on, it warms my heart.

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