TALCOTT (WVDN) – There are few things as noble as teaching the next generation. It is teachers that shape the future and inspire future leaders.
Recently, the recipient of the Summers County 2022 Teacher of the Year Award was announced. Talcott Elementary School Kindergarten teacher Amanda Wheeler received the honor. Wheeler is a Greenbrier County native.
Recently, she spoke about her journey to becoming a teacher and what the award means to her. Additionally, Wheeler talked about the process of becoming Teacher of the Year.
Wheeler’s journey did not originate on a path to being an elementary school teacher; however, her passion and dedication to her students are evident when speaking about her class and goals. Initially, Wheeler attended New River Community and Technical College in Lewisburg, where she completed an associate degree in marketing.
After spending some time working at the Greater Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce, she went to Concord University, through which she holds a bachelor’s degree in education with an emphasis in business education and a master’s degree in educational leadership and supervision. As part of gaining her education degree, Wheeler spent time student teaching, working in the business class that once existed at Summers County High School.
While Wheeler was student teaching at SCHS, her mentor planned to retire. She hoped to apply for the position of teaching the business class as soon as it became available. Sadly, the program ended when that teacher retired.
At that point, she spent a few years subbing at the various schools within the county. She said her husband noted a marked difference in her demeanor when she subbed at an elementary school versus the middle or high school. He told her she seemed happier after working at one of the elementary schools. Eventually, she decided to get certification to teach elementary education and landed a full-time job at Talcott Elementary School.
While at Talcott, Weeler said she found her teaching niche, helping kids learn to read.
She said, “I finally found my niche of teaching, and it’s teaching kids to read. I love that.”
This subject was the focus of one of the essays Wheeler had to submit before being chosen as Teacher of the Year.
In her essay, Wheeler said, “Over the past few years, we (early education teachers) have been teaching students to read using a whole language reading approach with leveled readers and having students memorize sight words, with little phonics instruction. Covid aside, the data that we are seeing from our first through third graders is inadequate. If we encourage teachers to use the Wilson Language programs such as ‘Fundations’ and provide Heggerty’s Phonemic Awareness curriculum, I guarantee our data will raise in the right direction.”
Wheeler also had to submit an essay detailing her greatest contribution to the teaching profession.
Her opening statement says, “My greatest contribution to the teaching profession is that I have continued to learn outside of my formal college education. Unfortunately, teachers are not being taught the true science of how children learn to read. According to Emily Hanford of APM Reports, the science has shown that systematic, explicit phonics instruction is the necessary foundation for successful reading.” She goes on to say, “This fall when I returned to the classroom, I made it my mission to ensure that this year’s students would receive the most systematic, hands-on, explicit phonics instruction that I could provide!”
When talking about her students, Wheeler’s love for teaching shines through. She spoke about her student’s progression since entering her classroom.
She said, “[From] September to February, there was just huge growth, massive amounts.”
After teaching Kindergarten for the past four years, Wheeler is making a change in the coming term.
She connected with her students this past year so much, that she decided to move to first grade with them. Instead of getting a whole new class this coming term, she will reunite with last year’s class to guide them through a new year of learning.
When not teaching, Wheeler resides on a farm in Summers County with her husband, Shane, and their two sons.