In what has become an annual tradition, FSSD Director of Schools Dr. David Snowden surprised two teachers in their classrooms Monday, Feb. 1, carrying a bouquet of balloons and an important announcement. The unannounced visits were to inform the teachers that they had been selected to represent the district as the FSSD Elementary and Middle School Teachers of the Year. Megan Medders of Moore Elementary is the Elementary Teacher of the Year and Emily Phy of Poplar Grove Middle 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
First-grade teacher Megan Medders has worked at Moore Elementary for the last five years of her eight-year career in education. “I am incredibly excited that Mrs. Medders has been selected as the FSSD Elementary Teacher of the Year. She is so deserving of this honor,” said her principal, Lisa Burgin. “Mrs. Medders consistently provides her students with interactive and engaging learning experiences that challenge her students. Her creative and inviting classroom environment is student-centered. She differentiates instruction for all types of learners, and creates a supportive space in which the children feel appreciated and respected. Her enthusiastic teaching style is infectious and a joy to watch.”
Working with some of the youngest learners, Medders works hard to ensure they begin their journey in school with confidence and joy. “I believe strongly in differentiation and creating a class environment where students feel accepted and comfortable to take risks,” she said. Keeping these first-grade students on task and engaged can be a challenge for some, but when you walk into Medders’ room, there is a calm quiet where every eye is on the teacher and every mind is actively involved in the task at hand. “I strive to teach in an engaging, creative way through songs, movement and technology to keep my students engaged in learning,” she said. One strategy she employs is encouraging students to share their learning with partners. “This holds the students accountable for their learning and I love to see how my students are able to explain their thinking in ways I would never have thought of.”
In an effort to help design an after-school tutoring program to best meet student needs, Medders collaborated with administrators to ensure successful methods would be used. Within the school environment, her leadership roles include serving as: first-grade team leader, FSSD Director of Schools Advisory Council representative for Moore Elementary, and a peer mentor, allowing other teachers to observe best practices in the instruction of reading and math. Professional educators from outside the district seek her expertise as well. This year, a math textbook company used by many school districts across the state sent a team to observe her teaching. This observation empowered these representatives to cultivate a plan for better serving the needs of teachers with its textbook resources.
As a vital member of her school’s leadership team, she helps plan special events such as family nights. Her participation on the school’s Reading Committee and the Math and Science Committee has provided the school with valuable insight to make these family nights successful and fun. She supports the PTO with her own membership and helps plan fun social events to promote a culture of positive relationships among the staff. “I feel honored to work at a school with a supportive staff, faculty, and administration, as well as a parent base and community partners who support our school without hesitation.”
Middle Grades Teacher of the Year
Emily Phy, a fifth-grade language arts teacher, has been teaching for 10 years but has spent the last five of those years in her current position at Poplar Grove Middle School. “We are so proud of Emily Phy. She is an amazing teacher who definitely deserves this incredible honor,” said Poplar Grove Middle Principal Tracie Gallon. “Mrs. Phy creates a classroom environment where students are constantly being challenged to do their personal best daily and feel safe to take risks. She consistently organizes the content so that it is meaningful and accessible for all students. Her innovative teaching style is tailored to reach diverse learners and to build confidence within students.”
Phy is a demonstrated leader in her school and the district, serving as a Tennessee Department of Education Learning Leader for language arts last summer. At the request of the FSSD Director of Schools, she also served on the State Department of Education’s Regional Teacher Roundtable this year, providing the state with her reflections on important issues such as the development of standards, intervention responses, reading instruction and new testing. At the school level, she is a co-facilitator for the 5th grade Professional Learning Community (PLC) where data is analyzed and curricular decisions are made.
Phy readily takes the professional learning opportunities she is presented and shares that learning with her peers in her school and in the district. This year she participated in a weeklong writing institute, where she quickly became a teacher leader. In this leadership role, she shares strategies and ideas learned during the institute with her fellow teachers, and invites her peers to observe her using those strategies in her own classroom.
Her successful teaching strategies are based on her philosophy that all students must be engaged and motivated to learn. To ensure this engagement, she enables her students to interact in structured collaborative groups. “Students who may be hesitant to participate in a broader whole class discussion are able to share their ideas in a more comfortable space such as a small group,” Phy said. She also encourages her students in goal setting. “The goal setting and reflection process not only allows students to feel successful on an individual level, but also helps them to see where they need to push themselves so they can rise to the challenge.”
Phy’s work outside of her classroom also includes serving as vice-chair of the Positive Behavior Support Committee, which focuses on a positive school environment, as well a co-sponsoring the school’s Best Buddies program, which she helped to start up with a special education teacher. This program matches typically developing students with their peers who have special needs. Special events and in-class visits encourage positive friendships and encourage an inclusive school environment.
FSSD Building-Level Teachers of the Year Selected
The FSSD Teachers of the Year were selected from a talented and well-respected group of educators who were elected to represent their individual schools as Teachers of the Year. They are:
- Ashley West: Johnson Elementary School, Accelerated Learning Specialist
- Mark Garey: Freedom Middle School, Band/Music
- Leslie Campbell: Poplar Grove Elementary School, 2nd Grade
- Sandra Wooten: Franklin Elementary School, 2nd Grade
- Jenni Peterson: Freedom Intermediate School, Accelerated Learning Specialist
- Marguerite Pryor: Liberty Elementary School, Reading Interventionist
- * Megan Medders: Moore Elementary School, 1st Grade
- * Emily Phy: Poplar Grove Middle School, 5th Grade Language Arts
* FSSD Teacher of the Year
All of the FSSD Teachers of the Year will be recognized at the March 14, 2016, Board of Education meeting, to be held at Poplar Grove Elementary School at 6:30 PM.
FSSD Classified Employees of the Month will be recognized in May.