Every spring we are honored to be able to recognize our Teachers of the Year. The work they do in and out of the classroom is staggering, and none of it is ever done with the desire to be recognized. These teachers were selected by their peers for their unselfish and unwavering support of students. Heather Soder of Johnson Elementary is the FSSD Elementary Teacher of the Year and Dinah Wade of Freedom Intermediate School is the Middle Grades Teacher of the Year. Their impressive work history, leadership activities and community involvement all combined to place these two teachers at the top of a list of very respected FSSD educators.
Elementary Teacher of the Year
Kindergarten teacher Heather Soder is a 9-year teaching veteran who has worked at Johnson Elementary for the past seven years. Her classroom is active with little learner who hang on her every word. To call it a nurturing, exciting, inclusive classroom with a strong emphasis on fun would be an understatement. It is, of course, all of those things, but even more important, Ms. Soder’s classroom is place where incredible academic growth comes at rate only paced by the social emotional growth her students experience.
Ms. Soder attributes her students’ growth to the strong bonds she builds and the relationships that the children share with one another as well as with her. She says, “The culture of my classroom is founded on love, trust, passion and hard work. My goal is to create an environment that promotes a love of learning so my students are excited to come to school, demonstrate caring for their classmates, and strive to learn and grow each day.
Mrs. Soder takes on extra responsibilities through school, serving this year as her school’s representative on the Director of Schools’ Advisory Council, a member of the Johnson Non-Violent Crisis Intervention Team, and a member of the Johnson Positive Behavior Support Team. She has also presented to district teachers on the Tennessee Student Growth Portfolio, developed and implemented the extended year program at Johnson and is a tutor with Gentry’s Educational Foundation.
Middle Grades Teacher of the Year
Dinah Wade is the library/media specialist at Freedom Intermediate School whose library space sometimes looks like a robotics lab, a computer lab, a science room and a shop class. With 14 years of teaching experience, Mrs. Wade has sent the last four in the media center, transforming the library into a place where students can read, design, create and experiment. While literacy activities and reading are the foremost priorities for the library, this technology minded teacher jumped on the emerging trend of including a maker space in her library, incorporating coding activities, and supporting all subject areas with support, materials and lessons.
Mrs. Wade is currently training teachers in coding as part of the Science for All initiative. She also orchestrated and hosted an Evening of Code for the entire district, including any interested community members. During the event, coding stations were set up in the library and four classrooms. Over 100 people attended with all 8 schools represented. She said, “during the event, I had the opportunity to speak with parents about the importance of computer programming as they support their students in future career decisions.”
Mrs. Wade is a demonstrated leader in her field and uses her many certifications in technology based instruction to support other teachers in her building. She has also presented at numerous state and national institutes and conferences.
In addition to her work in education, Mrs. Wade is a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical responder with the Williamson County Rescue Squad. She makes presentations to schools and has even begun a city-wide project called Books from Heroes. Books from school book fairs are purchased by donors and then provided to the Franklin Fire and Police departments to be given to children in times of crisis or fear. She also works with Gentry’s Educational Foundation as the social media specialist.
FSSD Building-Level Teachers of the Year
The FSSD Teachers of the Year were selected from a talented and well-respected group of educators who were selected as their school representatives. In addition to Ms. Soder and Mrs. Wade, they are:
- Franklin Elementary – Jennifer Alvarado, art teacher
- Liberty Elementary – Mary Clay Estes, kindergarten teacher
- Moore Elementary – Eli Adams, music teacher
- Poplar Grove Elementary – Jamie Betts, 2nd grade teacher
- Poplar Grove Middle – Sherrie Anderson, 7th grade teacher
- Freedom Middle – Denise Beaman, 7th grade math
The Board recognized all eight building level Teachers of the Year at its March meeting. A special thank you to Cornerstone Financial, who presented our building level winners with a $100 check and our district level winners with a $500 check! The credit union’s nine-year history of generosity and support of our extraordinary teachers is appreciated.