Congratulations to
Life-Changing Teaching Award Nominee
Francesca Smith
Marie Reed Elementary School

This has been such an incredible year to watch my daughter enter the first grade online and to flourish despite all the challenges. I watched in amazement over the past 7 months how she watches and listens to the instruction intently, raise hands to answer questions, and diligently work on her assigned tasks all the while sitting at her desk at home, staring at a small screen. As a fellow teacher, I know that the teachers made a world of difference to these children whose lives were turned inside out and upside down; and Ms. Smith just was a ray of optimism that my child needed as we waded into the uncertainty last fall. As an advanced reader, it became clear that my child felt unchallenged in the classroom where the teachers had to tend to the needs of others who were still learning alphabets and basic spelling. But Ms. Smith didn't waste any time forming groups of students based on their reading levels, empowering them with their ability to explore and excel at their own pace without forgetting to give even the advanced students the validation that they still needed as young learners. Her creativity in designing virtual field trips, calling on individual students to make sure they remained engaged, and to give every child the feeling that they mattered was impressive --- all the while remaining her composure on the screen. There were days when my daughter would say she didn't want to return to her afternoon class. But as soon as we turned it on "just in case you change your mind" she was always right there with her headphones on, because she wanted to see and hear what was happening. Teaching such young children virtually was likely not something that she was trained to do - but it sure seemed as if she was ready from the beginning. She has always been extremely communicative with the parents, and I am grateful that I got to see her teaching in action, something that I would not have had an opportunity to do under the "normal" circumstance. We are very grateful that my daughter got to be in her class during the first grade, and know that we will remember this year for all the great things that happened too.
Saya Finlay

To see more exceptional teacher nominees, visit The Honor Roll.


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