SALISBURY, MD---Attending Salisbury University is not a requirement to become a finalist for the Delaware Teacher of the Year title, but as five alumna recently found out, it doesn’t hurt.
In all, 25 percent of this year’s 20 finalists were members of the SU community. Four earned their diplomas from Salisbury, while a fifth is currently studying at the University.
They are: Michelle Cook of the Woodbridge School District; Barbara Hudson of the Delmar School District, Jean Johnson of the Sussex Technical School District, Amy Jones of the Appoquinimink School District and Thonia Waters of the Seaford School District.
“It’s always gratifying to see teachers receiving the recognition they deserve, but it’s even more exciting when those teachers have SU connections,” said Dr. Dennis Pataniczek, dean of SU’s Samuel W. and Marilyn C. Seidel School of Education and Professional Studies. “One in four is a great ratio, and we are proud of these educators who serve the children of Delaware.”
The alumni said they valued their experiences at SU.
Education faculty “were excellent role models for me and demonstrated the instructional strategies, qualities and core values that all effective teachers should bring into their classrooms,” said Jones. She recalled that participating in a pilot cohort program for aspiring teachers at SU taught her “an invaluable lesson” about the importance of collaboration in education, which she still observes today.
“I personally love the small classes that are offered at SU and the knowledge of the teaching staff,” said Waters. “I feel as if each professor tries to make a connection with the students.” Two, in particular, made connections with her: Dr. Nancy Michelson of the Education Specialties Department, whom Waters considers a mentor and friend, and Dr. Laura Andes of the Teacher Education Department, who “pushed me and taught me things I feared I would never understand.”
“There were professors in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department whose teaching styles greatly influenced me,” said Johnson, citing Dr. Homer Austin as one. “These individuals had classroom procedures that were like no other I had experienced. Their approach to teaching mathematics not only made me realize how much I loved the subject, but that I was making the right decision to teach it to others.”
The finalists from SU teach a variety of subjects and grade levels.
Cook, a sixth-grade mathematics teacher at Phillis Wheatley Middle School in Bridgeville, DE, has completed coursework in SU’s M.Ed. program. She earned her B.S. in early childhood and elementary education from Wilmington University. For her, the career is a passion: “I love math, and I love teaching math,” she said. “My students can tell when I am excited about a particular activity, lesson or even an entire unit, and I enjoy being that crazy math person who reminds them constantly that math is everywhere, and there is no getting around it.”
Hudson teaches 12th-grade social studies at Delmar High School in Delmar, DE. She earned her B.A. in history from SU in 1990 and her M.A. in liberal students from the University of Delaware. “Teaching is about encouraging my students to achieve beyond what they think they are capable and empowering students to take responsibility for their learning. … the greatest reward is to know what I have done has made a difference ….”
Johnson teaches ninth-grade mathematics at Sussex Technical High School in Georgetown, DE. She earned her B.S. in mathematics education from SU in 1995 and her Master of Instruction from the University of Delaware. “When I am in my classroom with my students and I can see and hear the sounds of success, I know that I am where I belong,” she said. “It gives me purpose. I understand the power of what opportunities I can provide for my students.”
Jones earned her B.A. in elementary education from SU in 1998 and her M.Ed. in reading from the University of Delaware. A National Board Certified Teacher, she teaches third grade at Olive B. Loss Elementary School in Bear, DE. “I feel that education is the single most rewarding profession,” she said. “I can’t think of any other career path that allows you to witness such incredible growth and development. We teach. We touch the future.”
Waters earned her M.Ed. in reading from SU in 2007 and her B.S. in elementary education from the University of Delaware. She teaches first grade at Frederick Douglass Elementary School in Seaford, DE. She said teachers who encouraged her during her sometimes difficult childhood prompted her to become one herself. “Every day when I enter my classroom, I view it as an opportunity to help a child see his or her own potential and grow toward it,” she said. “Simply put, it is what I was placed on this planet to do.”
For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu.