By Sarah Reed
When I learned that I was named Kentucky Teacher of the Year, there were only two words to describe how I felt: honored and humbled.
After I won, had photos taken, attended the luncheon (which all seemed like whirlwind to me), I got into the car and went back to my classroom to share the news with my students. I did this because without their unwavering support, none of this would have been possible. My students jumped, screamed and hugged me. They were so excited!
Soon the reporters came and interviewed me. They learned that I attributed my success to the professional development, resources and support my district and the Kentucky Department of Education provide me. I also said that if I could write a book, the title would be The Power is in the Classroom. I believe that my influence as a teacher affects every child – and I do not take that responsibility lightly.
A classroom, I believe, has a magical power in supporting students to do their very best. When teachers offer lots of praise and turn their classroom into magical experiences, like I do with my pirate-themed classroom, fantastic things happen. You see, for me nothing matters more than giving every child the power to believe. The power of my classroom is the ability to change the mindset so that all children believe they have the ability to achieve!
Shortly after I posted the news that I had won, congratulations came in from all over the country. What touched me the most was hearing from the people that I had worked with in years long past. I received a flood of e-mails, many starting with, “Do you remember me, I was the secretary … the clerk … the bus driver … the custodian … the student you helped,” and so on.
It is humbling to know that people still remember me after all these years, and that every memory they shared confirmed the passion I have in teaching students and being the best teacher I can be. For me, their memories are like the pieces of a puzzle that have magically come together. I feel ever so lucky to have their support as I embark on this new and exciting journey. I am really looking forward to the work that starts in January. It is a great labor of love to ensure that others – my students and colleagues, friends and others – can share this journey alongside me. To give everyone red carpet access, I am hoping to create some kind of interactive webpage with a blog to chronicle my travels. I have a wondrous opportunity to help others explore and exchange ideas, as well as to continue to stay connected.
As my term gets closer, I am beginning to think about what I can share that others would like to hear about. Perhaps it is some of the differentiated instructional strategies I use in the classroom to ensure students’ success, or perhaps it is the trek I am taking with the Teacher Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (TPGES) like they are, or maybe they would like to hear how I combine text-based questions with answer stems to promote academic language growth, or maybe it is something completely different. Whatever it may be, I am up for the challenge!
What I am most looking forward to is learning and traveling. I believe it is critical to connect with different groups of teachers throughout the state. I cannot wait to visit different counties and learn about all the great things they are doing. I believe we are fortunate beyond measure to work as educators in Kentucky, where our students challenge us every day and present wonderful success stories that need to be shared, to learn and grow, as I hope to do during my term. Jaime Escalante once said, “I learned their dreams, and I believe that I am here to assist each of them to realize those dreams.” Only by working together can we make a difference and encourage those dreams to come true!
Again, I am proud to be recognized as your next Teacher of the Year for Kentucky!
Sarah Reed, a teacher at Field Elementary School (Jefferson County), is the 2015 Kentucky Teacher of the Year. She will be sharing her educational experiences in and outside of the classroom with Kentucky Teacher readers during her yearlong reign.