NCTE has an incredible membership, filled with vibrant teachers and faculty who are dedicated to their students every day. This year, ten NCTE members were recognized as extraordinary teachers by their colleagues in their respective states. We have already recognized Shanna Peeples, the 2015 National Teacher of the Year, and appreciate her advocacy for students and teachers.
Let’s meet the others:
Gail Adams, a high school English language arts teacher in West Virginia, was inspired to teach while correcting grammar in the songs she used in the jazzercise class she taught. “I love words. I love literature and grammar, and so you’ve got to turn a passion into something you can do for a living.” She helped secure seven West Virginia Interscholastic Forensic League state championships. Gail strongly believes in showing her students she cares and inspiring them to have a passion for learning.
Melody Arabo, a third grade teacher in Michigan, noted in her blog that in the last year, “I found my purpose…my voice…my passion…my team.” She concluded “I ignited the flame…and made an impact.” For Melody, teacher leadership is critical and she “rallied for more opportunities for those that are anxious to break through the walls of their classrooms and extend their reach.” But Melody’s true passion is the prevention of bullying and she wrote the book, “Diary of a Real Bully,” to highlight that even the nicest of students can exclude and be hurtful to others at times.
Ann Marie Corgill is Alabama’s State Teacher of the Year, a National Teacher of the Year Finalist, and a member of NCTE’s Elementary Section Steering Committee. As an advocate for teachers and students, Ann Marie answered in an interview, “Please listen to and trust the expertise of teachers who have spent their lives being forever learners for the children they teach. Please ask teachers and tap into their expertise first when making decisions about policy, standards, and programs. The world needs to know that teacher and student voices are honest, passionate, experienced voices, and if we are heard and trusted, then we can transform education for the better.”
Jennifer Dorman, a middle school special education teacher from Maine, loves motivating and encouraging her students to read. She said that part of her success in the classroom is finding material that her students are motivated to read and that is appropriate to their reading level. She said for struggling readers, those two things don’t often come together, so she creates a classroom that is stocked with rich reading material relevant to middle school students and at a level where they can find reading success. “I introduce books. I read just pieces of books to get them hooked. I show book trailers to try to get them hooked, and we talk about what they’re reading,” Jennifer said. “The more they understand about what they read, the more they want to read.”
Chris Holmes is a journalism teacher at Hazelwood High School in Missouri. He felt it important to attend the vigil after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson to give his students an eyewitness perspective. Unfortunately, he was caught up in the violence that followed and was injured. For him, it was a teachable moment. Chris feels that one of his biggest contributions to education was the dropout prevention program he helped initiate three years ago at Hazelwood West. “We implemented Project WALK with about 50 freshmen and sophomore students who exhibited multiple characteristics associated with students who drop out,” he said. “Our preliminary data suggest that we will graduate dozens of students in the spring of 2015 who, based on their previous path, would have likely dropped out without the intervention.”
Lori Michalec, an English teacher at Tallmadge High School in Ohio, said, “I’m trying to make my students advocate for themselves…If we don’t start with education, it all falls apart.” The Ohio Department of Education commended Lori for her “can do” attitude and recognized her work with the Tallmadge City Schools Resident Educator Program “mentoring new teachers, leading several professional development trainings for her fellow educators, and collaborating with Kent State University professors to implement a writing center.”
Kathy Nimmer of Indiana is also a National Teacher of the Year Finalist. Kathy, who is blind, overcame that challenge and inspires her students to do the same with challenges they face in their own lives. Her classroom is vibrant and interactive as she encourages her students to reenact scenes from books they are reading. In an interview, she expressed her concern about standardized testing and said that time would be better spent on teaching, learning, and relationship-building. She stated, “All the headlines make education seem a daunting and an unhappy place to be. . . . We need to remove the fear from education and replace it with joy.”
Sarah Reed, a third-grade teacher in Kentucky, likes to get “gooey and dirty,” transforming her classroom into a pirate ship because “when you’re a pirate, you have to go to unknown lands and you have to have the tools and resources to deal with anything that comes in your path.” Brenna R. Kelly writes that Sarah “credits the development of professional learning communities and improved professional development over the last several years with helping her succeed.”
Ian Salzman, an English teacher at Spring Valley High School in Nevada, won the Michael Landsberry Teacher of the Year Award, which is named for the Sparks Middle School math teacher killed in October 2013 while trying to talk a 12-year-old shooter into putting his gun down at the northern Nevada school. Seen as a hero by many, Ian created the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program to help at-risk youth attend college. But he credits his fellow teachers for his award: “I’m standing in front of you today because of what you did for me…you have transformed me.”
We are incredibly proud of all our teachers and wish to extend congratulations to our members who are 2015 State Teachers of the Year.