Among this year's Teacher of the Year nominees, some always knew they wanted to teach, while others chose an education path later in life. Still, all demonstrate the high standards Cape Henlopen School District sets for its teachers, the superintendent says.
"Each of the building Teachers of the Year proudly represent the great teachers that work in all of our schools throughout the district,” said Cape Henlopen Superintendent Robert Fulton. We are fortunate to have such remarkable individuals working with our students each and every day."
This year's district winner will be announced Thursday, May 15, at the Atlantic Sands hotel in Rehoboth Beach.
Selected by their peers at each school, the nominees are listed in alphabetical order.
Michael Connors is a physical education and health teacher at Cape Henlopen High School who was inspired to teach by his middle school physical education teacher.
“Mr. Eisenacher was a successful physical education teacher, but more importantly, was a great role model to all of his students,” he said. “I believe that my greatest contribution and accomplishments in education will be having students feel that they were inspired by me, much in the way that Coach “Eyes” influenced my decision to become a teacher.”
Shannon Fowler is a teacher in the Intensive Learning Center at Mariner Middle School who tried her hand at accounting before realizing teaching was for her.
As a young girl, Fowler said, she remembers she always was the teacher when she and her friends played school.
“I just thought that being a teacher was cool, because you got to hold the teacher's edition, make copies on the ditto machine, grade papers and write on the chalkboard,” she said. “Now I understand that teaching is one of the most compassionate professions in the world.”
Amanda Johnson is a kindergarten teacher at Rehoboth Elementary. She said she remembers how her teachers and coaches reached out to her and helped her family during a family crisis.
“I have often wondered where I would be had I not had such influential, caring adults in my life,” Johnson said. “I have chosen a career that allows me to pay it forward. Now I hope to be that voice for someone else. Teaching is my thank you to them.”
Jennifer Leach is a kindergarten teacher at Richard A. Shields Elementary who became a teacher later in life. She credits her mother – who also was her kindergarten teacher – with encouraging her to become a teacher.
“There was always a voice in the back of my head saying, 'You have a natural ability to teach',” she said. “I am still evolving and growing as a teacher, and I say that with passion, purpose and pride, thankful for my discoveries along the way.”
Emily Lehne is science teacher at Beacon Middle School. Entering college, she said she had dreams of
becoming a gemologist, but the coursework quickly changed her mind. While on winter break, Lehne volunteered in an elementary classroom helping students one-on-one; she soon become an education major.
“I'll never forget the first time I saw the lightbulb go off,” she said. “That moment was the first time I thought I wanted to be a teacher and realized how rewarding teaching could be.”
Joseph Meszaros is a teacher at Sussex Consortium who grew up in a coal mining family from Western Pennsylvania. With his father's encouragement, Meszaros said he went to college and studied criminal justice, always intending to help troubled youth. That path, however, led him to Sussex Consortium as a teacher helping students transition to a regular-class setting.
“Any time you transition a student it is very special because you do realize that you have made a difference, not only in the student's life but in the family's as well,” he said.
As a high school student, H.O. Brittingham special education teacher Stephanie Shuttleworth said she always wondered about a group of students whose classroom was near the cafeteria. When the classroom was moved a year later to the main hallway, she realized they were special needs students.
"One day as I was walking down the hall, one of them caught my eye and gave me a great big smile," she said. "From that day forward, I served as a student helper in the special education classroom at my high school and it was then that I knew what I wanted to do with my life."
Olga Tigue is a second-grade teacher at Milton Elementary School who grew up abroad in a family of medical professionals. She said she told her Georgian relatives that she wanted to be a doctor, but it was not true. After moving to the United States, Tigue said, she enrolled in some education classes and realized she was born to teach.
“One of my biggest hopes for my kiddos, who touch my heart every year, is that I touch their minds in some ways and plant the seeds of knowledge that they will be able to grow as they go through life, and hopefully, make a difference on this planet of many opportunities,” she said.