Each year's winners are peer-nominated for displaying ingenuity, creativity, and compassion in the classroom, and we're thrilled to recognize these amazing educators for their dedication to their students.
Gina Thompson, Teacher of the Year
Algebra, 8th Grade, Tindley Collegiate Academy
Recipient of a $2500 cash prize from the Slaughter Family & $4000 ACE Scholarship
Gina Thompson admits that she never wanted to be a teacher when she first started out. But after 24 years as an educator, we’d like to think she’s found her calling anyways.
Once upon a time the word “algebra” could make Gina--like most of us--cringe. But after accepting her new role as an 8th grade math teacher, she knew she needed to teach herself the curriculum in a way that was fun and memorable. She turned to songs and movement. What worked for her still works for her students, and she is known throughout her Tindley school for her songs and dance moves.
Maybe if you ask nicely, she’ll teach you her catchy tune, “Irrational Numbers.”
But singing and dancing are only the beginning of Gina’s strategies. In her classroom, math is a full contact sport. No one gets to sit on the sidelines. Students move desks, throw beanbags, and string yarn through boxes to learn quadrants and plotting points. And that’s just one class session!
At the end of the day, Gina meticulously looks over student work. If it appears that her students are not understanding a concept, she changes the entire lesson to address the problem. She believes that part of being successful as a teacher is “anticipating the struggles to come and meeting them head on.” If that means staying up late to completely change the next day’s lesson, she is happy to miss a few hours of sleep.
When asked to teach 10th grade summer school math—without a set curriculum—Gina created a summer course for her students that helped 90% of them pass on to the next math class. One particular student was at risk of not graduating due to his low math test scores. After a summer as this young man’s teacher, Gina made sure she that was the one to tell him that not only had he passed the test, and not only would he graduate on time, but he had passed the test at the top of the class.
Gina doesn’t just give extra time during the summers. She may spend more time inside her school than outside of it. On Sundays, she takes time to tutor a student who cannot attend regular classes due to being on dialysis. She also spends time on the weekends working with another student who cannot attend regular classes due to a mental health issue.
“I give 110% because I care about my kids. It has nothing to do with numbers and data,” Gina says. “I want them to go out and make this country better. Don’t be a bum on the street; I need you to own that street!”
Even though it was never her intended destination, Teachers’ Treasures—as well as all the students whose lives she has touched—are so glad Gina found a home inside the classroom.
Special Education Teacher, Early Childhood/Pre-K, Wayne Township Preschool
Recipient of a $1250 cash prize from the Slaughter Family & $2000 ACE Scholarship
Some of you may have seen Allison in our store: big bow in her hair, a smile on her face, and positively brimming with energy and creativity.
For the past 12 years, Allison has “lived the dream” as a developmental preschool teacher, her classroom bursting with projects, puppets, artistic creations, and young students who are given the chance to explore the world around them in a way that matches their unique needs. While her students see her as a warm and empathetic teacher who they can depend on, her educational peers see her as a leader, an inspiration, and a strong advocate for Teachers’ Treasures.
Allison is quick to ask “what can we do with this stuff?” and always has an “I can make anything out of anything” approach to her Teachers’ Treasures finds--an enthusiasm that inspires her colleagues in their own classrooms. She’s focused on finding creative hands-on projects that engage her students, most of whom are non-traditional learners who need to be engaged in unique ways. She crafts puppets from socks, felt, and bamboo sticks to give shy students a voice. Once, she found an old Aladdin’s Genie puppet on Teachers’ Treasures shelves. When children need help understanding emotions or good behavior, Genie and Allison are there to explain things. An old keyboard became a way for pre-schoolers to learn about technology and identify letters, colors, and shapes. And that’s just the beginning of the creative ways she uses everyday objects to create a world of learning and exploration.
Allison is humbled that she gets to be by her students’ sides as they experience things for the very first time in her classroom. These moments range from something as simple as learning how to use scissors to big things, like how to express one’s feelings or how to make friends. As an adult living with ADHD, Allison has never let her own challenges hold her back and she always makes sure that all of her students feel like they can accomplish anything and everything.
It’s no surprise that Wayne Township teachers nominated this unstoppable educator to be our 2018 Teach Like a Champion recipient.