OWENSBORO, Ky. (8/6/13) – Daviess County Public Schools announced recipients of the first annual Great Expectations Teacher of the Year, Customer Service and Office Professional Awards during the district’s Opening Day ceremony at the Sportscenter today.
During the spring, each site selected a school-level Teacher of the Year. These winners received an engraved crystal bowl, $200 for classroom use and a designated parking place for one year. Honorees were evaluated by representatives of the DCPS Office of Teaching and Learning on the basis of classroom observations, written essays and nomination materials, and one overall winner was selected for each of three levels – elementary, middle and high school. These winners were awarded a $1,000 purchase order for classroom use and will be nominated by the district as candidates for Kentucky Teacher of the Year honors. In 2013, Heidi Givens, DCPS itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard-of-hearing, was named Kentucky Elementary Teacher of the Year; and Dr. Angela Gunter, AP English teacher and academy dean at Daviess County High School, was a finalist for the 2013 Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year.
The 2013 DCPS Great Expectations Elementary Teacher of the Year is Abby Flake, a kindergarten/primary teacher at Audubon Elementary School. Flake was nominated by a parent, who noted how well this teacher keeps families informed so students benefit from support at both home and school. Flake was also noted for her outstanding classroom management skills and for creating a nurturing and safe environment of respect, confidence and love of learning. The parent noted: “She believes in each of her students and they know she believes in them. She teaches reading and math while also developing personal skills so the students will grow to be fine people.”
Flake said her greatest reward as an educator is to see students achieve goals that may have seemed unattainable when they first began school. She is also gratified as she watches each child “grow and mature throughout their learning experience, and knowing they feel a sense of pride and success along the way.”
Flake said her great expectations for students include setting high standards. “I challenge students in ways that make them think critically or outside the box, and take risks in order to get an answer or complete a task,” she said. “I also make sure all students can meet the expectations or goals I set, and encourage them to feel a sense of pride when these expectations are accomplished. I strive to make sure all children know they are special in their own unique ways, and that they can reach any goal or dream they have set for themselves by working hard and always saying ‘I can’ and not ‘I can’t.’ I also try to instill in them a love of learning, making sure they know that each one of them can become someone great in life as long as they work hard and always give 110 percent toward whatever they are trying to accomplish.”
The 2013 DCPS Great Expectations Middle School Teacher of the Year is Sara Appleby, who teaches language arts at Daviess County Middle School, where she also serves as Literacy Design Collaborative teacher leader; English Language Arts department chairperson; and KTIP Resource Teacher (Kentucky Teacher Internship Program).
Appleby establishes “great expectations” for her students beginning on the first day of school. “I want each student to search for a way to improve his or her attitude, gain knowledge, foster a passion and grow with integrity,” Appleby said. “Our classroom is about expecting each other to be better people today than we were yesterday.”
Appleby strives to make a difference in the lives of students by modeling the expectations she has for them. “I want each student to see a dedicated teacher who loves every minute of her job,” she said. “I want each student to feel connected to our class and want to walk through the door each day. By making this connection, I want my students to know there is always someone behind them, cheering them on.”
Her nomination recognizes Appleby as “truly an amazing teacher who puts in countless hours to prepare interesting and rigorous lessons that get students excited about learning.” In addition to individualizing lessons to meet the learning needs of each student, this teacher also transforms her classroom into a “learning environment” to reinforce lessons – everything from a Parisian café to an ER operating room!
“She holds her students accountable for their learning and for their character,” her nominator notes. “Sara not only ensures students master common core academic standards, but also teaches them about character and principles they need to be successful for life.”
Appleby is always willing to assist other teachers and is open to learning from others to improve her instructional practices.
The 2013 DCPS Great Expectations High School Teacher of the Year is Michelle Ruckdeschel, a math teacher at Beacon Central High School. Ruckdeschel is highly respected among her peers at BCHS and across the district, serving in a leadership role in the DCPS math design collaborative and leading staff in-service sessions at the school. Other teachers look to Ruckdeschel for ideas and strategies – not only within the DCPS district, but beyond. She has served as a facilitator at the Student Achievement Partners Institute in New York and Philadelphia, working with education professionals from across the United States to communicate an understanding of the shifts in math standards and to help make learning more meaningful and relevant to students.
Her classroom is an exciting place where students are challenged and supported. One nominator said, “Many students comment how they wish they had her sooner” as a math teacher. Ruckdeschel is described as “organized, informed, prepared, enthusiastic, determined, resourceful, energetic and creative.”
As a teacher in the alternative education setting, Ruckdeschel said her goal is for students “to see all learning as a life skill they will need to continue to improve upon in some fashion after high school. I also hope students will realize they need to use the tools they have been supplied throughout their educations in order to find their place in the world to become successful.” Ruckdeschel said she strives to make a difference in the lives of her students “by being dedicated to my craft and trying to teach the students differently than they may have been taught before. I want to continue to learn and hone my skills so I can deliver the best possible instruction to my students.”
Candidates for Customer Service and Office Professional Awards were submitted to a district-level committee last spring and were evaluated on the basis of nomination materials and responses to a questionnaire.
Glenn Pierce, head custodian at East View Elementary School, was presented the DCPS Great Expectations Customer Service Award today. Pierce will be submitted as the district nominee for the Kentucky Association of School Administrators’ Fred Award.
Pierce, known to everyone as “Mr. Glenn,” delivers customer service at the highest levels to students, parents, staff and guests. His day begins at 5:30 a.m. when he turns on lights, checks the temperature, buffs floors, makes coffee and makes his way to the door to welcome the first students off the bus. He stands at the door with a smile and a high five, and greets everyone with a hearty ‘Good morning.’ He knows every child by name. He visits with the kids during lunch as he cleans the area and helps them by opening their milk and ketchup packets. He is constantly working, yet takes time to visit with children and form meaningful relationships with them.
“Mr. Glenn” goes the extra mile for staff members too. On those cold, icy mornings, Mr. Glenn makes sure the walkways are clear and he helps staff carry their bundles of learning activities into the classroom. He has even gone out to the parking lot on cold winter days to start cars and scrape ice off the windshields so they are warmed up for the EVES staff at the end of the day.
Everything he does is a reflection of his Great Expectations for a job well done. He takes personal responsibility for making sure East View is a welcoming environment for visitors and that the learning environment is clean and ready for teaching and learning.
Mr. Glenn supports school events and has embraced East View’s Leader in Me program by creating beautiful works of art that are displayed in the school hallways. He is behind the scenes as an encourager, cheerleader and friend to all. He sets a wonderful example for both children and adults with his positive attitude, reputation for dependability and generous spirit.
According to his nomination form: “Mr. Glenn is the Shining Sun of East View. His attitude, loyalty, dedication and hard work create a safe, clean, positive, customer-friendly atmosphere that supports the ideal learning environment every day. It is an honor to work with someone who believes in being all you can be and who always sees the good in others. He truly is a humble servant of all.”
Mary Dean Miller was named DCPS Great Expectations Office Professional and will be nominated by the district for the KASA Wanda Luttrell Office Professional Award, a state-wide honor presented last year to Cindy Hudson, secretary to the principal at Daviess County High School. Miller is office assistant and guidance secretary at College View Middle School.
Mary Dean Miller goes far beyond her assigned duties to help organize morning games and trivia for students and staff, doing morning and afternoon announcements and playing DJ for homework rewards. She has a strong work ethic and is always available to help. She is a co-sponsor of College View’s Builder’s Club, which meets in the mornings before school and after school. She works with these students in organizing a Thanksgiving food drive, Santa Stash, dinner for residents of the Roosevelt House, an Easter egg hunt for students at Deer Park, Pennies for Patients and many other worthy causes. Not only does she help to organize the events – she also supports them through her attendance and active participation.
She facilitates the students’ planning of the Renaissance program and organizes the All A lunches and monthly Student of the Month luncheons. She works with parents and community partners to get volunteers for the annual Reality Fair and helps to coordinate the volunteer program with training and appreciation events. She makes it a point to talk with every volunteer and thanks them personally for their time and service to the school.
Miller also coordinates the school’s Star Card program and organizes the weekly rewards. This includes planning the program, mixing the lemonade, setting up cookies and cleaning up spills.
She is a compassionate person who understands the importance of building relationships with students. She knows their names and, with her gift of humor, quick wit and positive attitude, helps to turn around many difficult situations. Miller has incredible problem-solving skills, mostly because she doesn’t focus on the problem but instead, is always thinking, “How can we make this work?”
Mary Dean Miller is truly dedicated to the service of others. No job is too big or too small, and she does not limit herself to what’s on her “job description.” DCPS Great Expectations Office Professional Mary Dean Miller demonstrates her heart-felt belief that the most important thing she does every day is – whatever it takes to help others.
These awards represent the continued commitment of the DCPS district and its staff – certified and support – regarding student achievement. Superintendent Owens Saylor said, “I am so proud of these outstanding individuals, who are setting a powerful example for the students they serve through their positive attitudes, hard work and commitment to excellence.”
Information provided by Lora Wimsatt
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