Committee to accept Teacher of the Year nominations until Feb. 27

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As always every year, Carmel Clay Schools will participate in the state-run Stephen A. Backer Teacher of the Year award for the 2011-2012 school year. Teachers at Carmel High School, however, are no strangers to the award. Teachers at this school who have been Teachers of the Year include: Jan Mitchener, Michele Satchwell, Jim Streisel and Tony Willis. According to Ryan Newman, director of human resources, this year’s nominations for the Teacher of the Year will be accepted online through Feb. 27.

“The process for the Teacher of the Year award starts with recommendations and nominations made by teachers, parents or even students,” Newman said. “A committee then takes all those nominations and tries to group them together. Fifteen or so top teachers are picked, and the nominees are contacted.”

Newman, who organizes the award and nomination process, said the committee then interviews principal John Williams about the nominees. As for the questions, the committee asks the principal the same questions they ask the nominators.

“(The principal and the nominators are) asked on the nominees’ commitment to professional development, contributions to the school beyond just their teaching, teaching and instructional strategies and activeness in community, school, towns or cities,” Newman said.

For many teachers such as mathematics teacher Jan Mitchener, who received the award in 2007, being recognized as the Teacher of the Year is a prestigious and honorable experience. Mitchener said she was initially surprised when she found out that she had won, due to the unsuspecting nature of the process.

“As I reflect back on my initial reaction, I remember thinking that I could not have gotten to the point of being selected as Teacher of the Year without the mentors I had along the way,” Mitchener said via email. “Over the last 29 years, I have worked with amazing teachers.  We learn from each other and share best practices to help our students perform to the best of their abilities.”

Mitchener said she believes the award is not only important to the teachers, but to the community.

“Parents and students get the opportunity to nominate a teacher and express what this person does in the classroom that makes them stand out from the other teachers,” Mitchener said. “I think it is important for parents and students to know their opinions do help with this selection. Teachers rarely get recognition for their excellence in the classroom and (the award) is one way to do this.”

According to Newman, he also believes the recognition of qualified teachers is a key aspect of the award.

“It’s one small way to acknowledge how great of teachers we have,” Newman said. “Normally one downside is that it’s one person and 25 others who won’t be. I think it’s a way of truly showing that we value our teachers and that we have really outstanding teachers here in Carmel.”