Lanier Middle School Teacher of the Year
2020-2021 | Dena Dale
Ms. Dena Dale
I believe four things drive my teaching: respect, relationships, risk taking, and relatability. I will admit, I did not realize they all started with R’s until now.
Respect: Throughout my career, I have been blessed to have students hand me a compliment that means more to me than any others. “You don’t treat us like kids. You treat us as equals.” Those words mean more to me than any test score, any goal achieved, or even any personal accolade. Each year, the biggest message I always want my students to learn, and learn first, is that we are learners together. None of us can be successful without each other. A huge part of that equation is showing them that who they are is enough, that their strengths are valued, and their weaknesses are just opportunities for all of us to learn together. In my experience, “weaknesses” often turn out to be insecurities, and most of the time the battle is getting them to believe in the potential I know is within them. What is creativity and confidence if not the ability to think for yourself and feel respected enough to share and merge those ideas in with others? As a language arts teacher, I need them to see that I value the voices of my students, their views of the world, the way they interpret things, because all of it influences how they view and interpret the words of others. (IE: Authors, poets, etc.) While other subjects are more about the voices of historians, mathematicians, theorists, and scientists…my world revolves around the voices of my students and the value they bring to everyone in the classroom when they allow themselves to be vulnerable and they share that. The value of being heard.
Relationships: The best part of my job is getting to know students on a level deeper than just “student and teacher.” I want to know who they are, how they learn, what they believe in, what they think, what their dreams are, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. I want to know them as people and not just as little learning machines or data points on a spreadsheet. I teach 13 year olds, and I’m seeing more and more that they believe teachers are obstacles to get over, and they believe that teachers are just another figure in their life that doesn’t understand them. My job is to push through that and to give them their voice back, to show them that their voice matters, and assure them that I don’t just want to listen...I want to hear them. I attribute the success I’ve had in my career to the fact that I build relationships with students instead of just showing up to throw information at them each day.
Risk taking: I am also a big proponent for showing students that mistakes are ok and are welcome. I’ve made a ton of mistakes in my life, mistakes that were horrible at the time, but there isn’t one mistake that I haven’t learned from. I believe that sometimes students need to see that adults don’t expect them to be perfect, and that we…in turn…were not perfect ourselves at their age. At any age, for that matter. Learning to laugh at yourself is a rare skill, but it is a skill that I can model for them each and every day. Besides, in writing, mistakes often turn out to be some of the best stories and lessons.
Relatability: I teach writing all day long, a subject that is groaned about by young and old, and yet I use my love for it to teach others not only the importance of the craft…but why they should love it too. There’s a quote that I live by in my classroom each day, “Enthusiasm Ignites Greatness,” and I’ve found that the enthusiasm that a teacher has for a subject, when broken down and simplified, when you show your students your own struggle with the material, creates a love for that subject and a greater appreciation. Each year I get 120-ish students who absolutely hate to write. They want their voice heard and they want it appreciated, but they do not want to put those words down on paper. When they hear that I’m a writer, that I’ve been teaching it for over twenty years, the first response is to clam up and to not want to put words on paper. It is only when I express just how difficult it is, what my challenges are, how I’m great at it but it’s still scary, and share knowledge from published authors throughout history that the students start seeing that they aren’t alone in this struggle. I make it my point to write back to each and every student, no matter what the assignment is, and I tell them each day that I will be writing everything that they are writing in class. I model it, I own it, and I live it right with them. (Mistakes, failures, successes, and all!)
2019-2020 | Janan Olsen
Ms. Janan Olsen
I strongly beleive in showing students sthat I care and believe in them and their abilites to succeed. Affirmation and encouragement go a long way in helping studnets to stay focused and on track in the learning process. Ultimately, my goal as a teacher is to equip my students with great writing and reading analysis skills and train them to be responsible and dependable citizens, giving back to our society and more than they recieve.
2018-2019 | Holly Hall
Ms. Holly Hall
It is my belief that all students have tremendous talent and ability, but it is necessary to cultivate this talent through hard work. I am so grateful to work with amazing teachers and staff at Lanier Middle School who demonstrate every day that they too believe in the power of education to develop innate talents and help students grow into leaders of our future. I am thankful to get to work with dedicated professionals each day to help our students develop those talents and use them in the best possible way as they grow and learn.
2017-2018 | Carrie Lather
Ms. Carrie Lather
I firmly believe that as long as students work hard they can accomplish anything they put their minds to. Sometimes it is easy to give up when you think something is too hard; to not try. Taking risks is worth it, trying pays off, and working hard get you far in life even if you fail along the way. I always strive to provde an environemnt that creates an atmosphere of trust and that motivates students to go beyond what they think they are able to accomplish.
2016-2017 | Blake Baldwin
Mr. Blake Baldwin
My selection as Lanier's Teacher of the Year is a direct reflection of the impact my students and colleagues have had on me throhgout my career. My students have taught me their academic performace is not a byproduct of some "innovative" strategy; it is a reflection of their need for authentic teachers who tryly focus on their individuality. We are not molding great test takers; we are moding productive individuals. As such, I would hope my students remember their personal growth has always been my top priority. In my colleagues, I have seen the dedication to something greater than oneself at a level that transcends anything I ever imagined when I became an educator.
2015-2016 | Catherine Proctor
Ms. Catherine Proctor
It is an absolute honor to represent Lanier Middle School as the Teachrer of the Year. Lanie ris a school dedicated to helong all student ssucceed. Lanier teachers are experts in collaboration and developing innovative strategies to need indicudual student needs. In my three years at Lanier, I ahve witnessed my students not only ocercome adversity, but excel in their studies. My students have learned to vecome role models and good citizens in addition to focusing on academic growth. I am blessed to be aprt of an teacher inand leaning community that allows me to thinkg outside of the box and do what is best for my students.
2014-2015 | Lauren Pulley
Ms. Lauren Pulley
The great Bear Bryant once said " I am not miricle man. I guarantee nothing but hard work." I would hope that my colleagues, former students and parents would say that my greates contribution to education is my passion for inspiring my students to have fun, learn, and to always work hard. I am proud to teach in an environment where I can learn from the esperience and wisdon of my colleagues. It is their willingness to collaborate and encourage that motivates me to try and create an environment that my students can learn in every day. Every class I teach is diverse in numerous ways, and ther are multiple leveles of abilities. As such, I try to model patience and consideration as I work with the students, and I expect them to be patient and considerate of each other.
2013-2014 | Joan McElroy
Ms. Joan McElroy
I am always looking for way to develop strategies and opportunities that are researched-based and data-driven in order to reach students' academic and personal needs while setting high experctations for each of them. By doing this, students are able to see their full potential in becoming lifelong learners because they have been engaged in a rigourus curriculum. This rigorous curriculum repects the person because it sends the message, " I know you can do this". Th student is guided along that path, but then is gradually released. Then is is not I who sees their potential, but they then see it in themselves.
2012-2013 | Kinsey Edwards
Ms. Kinsey Edwards
Though I teach music, it is very important for my students to see that literacy, math, science and social studies have all contrubuted to the things that we learn about in orchestra. Studnets most certainly need to learn to perform on their instrument, but they also need to know how to use other curricula to take their music making a step further.
2011-2012 | Janelle Wilson
My biggest accomplishment in education is hearing my students say that they love science because of my classroom. If just one student becomes a scientist, astronaut, or engineer because of what happened in my classroom, I have changed the world. If I inspire students to believe in themselves, take chances, and explore the world around them, I am a suceess.
2010-2011 | Ansley Bennett
Ms. Ansley Bennett
I have always wanted to be a teacher. My passion began more than 20 years ago when , even as a small child, I would practice "playing school" on myu younger siblings. My goal, even as a bossy six year old, was to live my dream.
I can still vividly feel the moment of my first day in my own classroom. The feeling was a crazy combination of utter excitement, mixed with a touch of fear and anxiety, and topped with an overwhelming sense of PEACE. Fice years later, I still know unequvocally that I amdoing somthing for a purpose grater than myself. You see, I am one of the lucky ones. I am truly living my DREAM.
When the first student walkks though my classroom door in the morning, I am instantly reminded that I am not here for fame of fortune, but rather to ompact each child. Th students are the reason that I come back to work each day. They are the reason that I smile. It is my mission for my students to love learning half as much as I truly love being their teacher.
2009-2010 | Cyndi Smith
Ms. Cyndi Smith
Ms. Smith... There's a lot to say about her. She is such a fantasitc teacher! She gave me a plethoric amount of knowledge that I needed to succeed and obtain the grade I deserved. She taught me how to put specificity in my writing so I, as well as all other students, will be a better writer. I am privileged to have her as my teacher.
2008-2009 | E'Wanna Ishii
Ms. E'Wanna Ishii
Ms. Ishii says her desire to become a teachers stems from her 7th grade teacher, Ms. Joiner. She admired Ms. Joiner's passion for the classroom. "She made everyone feel special, and she made learning fun." Through this teacher's influence, Ms. Ishii says she was inspired to chase afrte her own dreams of becoming a teacher.