Teachers show up every day in the classroom, and now—thanks to the pandemic—in virtual school as well, continuing to be true heroes for children and families. So we asked our community for stories of a teacher who made a difference and went the extra mile! From that group of nominees, we narrowed it down to 10 finalists, and then picked one teacher as the Collin County Teacher of the Year (and got to spoil this teacher with lots of goodies from local and national brands!).
2021 COLLIN COUNTY TEACHER OF THE YEAR WINNER:
Stephanie VanSaders: Teaches Second Grade at Tibbals Elementary School
Before the school year started, she went to all of her students’ homes to meet them personally, since it would be an online class. She is very caring and motivates her students every day. She says phrases like, “kiss your brain, well-done, think your answer,” and many more phrases to motivate the kids to do their best. With her help, my daughter has found a love for reading and math. I am very grateful to her because although we are at home, we are receiving the same or better quality of learning that any child in school is receiving. My daughter said: “Ms. VanSaders is amiable, beautiful, and she is a funny and happy teacher; I really love her smile. She is the best teacher ever!”
COLLIN COUNTY TEACHER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES:
Alli Bradbury: Teaches First Grade at Thomas Elementary
My son has some learning difficulties, especially with virtual learning, and Ms. Bradbury goes out of her way to make sure he feels comfortable and at ease. She goes above and beyond to make sure all her students are prepared for their next level of education. Her love for her students is evident. With everything that is going on in the world today, she rolls with punches and gives the kids a sense of normalcy. My son is blessed to be going through this chapter of his life with such a loving and caring teacher like Ms. Bradbury. She is amazing!
Amy Acord: Teaches Fourth Grade at McClure Elementary
Mrs. Acord is absolutely amazing! She works so hard to make this year as normal as possible for her students. She transitions between virtual and in-person teaching as needed with ease. She recently transformed her classroom to a “campground” to make STAAR testing prep way more fun as the practiced writing in “camp write-a-ton”. Her students absolutely love her, and she loves them, too. My son was so nervous about how school would go this year, and because of Mrs. Acord it has been one of his best years ever!
Jason Crown: Teaches Seventh and Eighth Grades (PAS) at Erickson Middle School
If an individual is very fortunate once in their educational career, they will have a teacher who makes a lifetime impact. Jason Crown is that person in Matthew Hofmann’s life. After six elementary schools, including the alternative school, my grandson with special needs was fortunate to land in Mr. Crown’s class last year. Daily, Mr. Crown goes above and beyond lovingly guiding and inspiring Matthew to take academics seriously, be kind and cooperative, and manage social anxieties. Mr. Crown effectively and frequently communicates with his parents to support his learning, even maintaining contact during holidays and summer break. As a positive role model, Mr. Crown demonstrates manners, personal accountability, and encourages Matthew to be his best self.
Jason does not just teach his students, he champions them. Kids in PAS Resource are ones with IEP plans and need special learning and developmental help. Jason Crown is a real hero who takes on the most difficult issues with resolve and compassion. He has completely turned around my grandson on the autism spectrum, to where he now embraces learning. His dedication and individual attention and bond he has with his students is unmatched. He has gained my son’s trust and respect and he has definitely gained the admiration of our family.
Kayla Shelpuk: Teaches Kindergarten at Hughes Elementary
This is Mrs. Shelpuk’s first year of teaching and she is doing it in a pandemic! My son struggled a lot with separation at the beginning of the school year but Mrs. Shelpuk offered so much support. My son now loves school and it is because of Mrs Shelpuk: She has created an environment for our kindergarteners to feel loved and safe during their first year of school. Especially during the unusual changes which have taken place in schools this year, she has truly been a blessing in our lives and we are so grateful that she has been our teacher this year!
Jeannie Morrison: Teaches Kindergarten at Centennial Elementary
Teaching Kindergarten virtually in a global pandemic and figuring out how to safely bring kids into the classroom is HARD. Kids who don’t know how to tie their shoes, zip their coats, keep on a mask, keep six feet distance, kids who are just starting to learn how to be independent but need a hug now and again…but you can’t even hug them! Think about that. Mrs. Morrison was faced with what seemed like the impossible. She likely spent a good portion of her summer break trying to prep for this unknown teaching environment. They were uncharted waters, and she sailed right into them with her love and passion for teaching as her compass.
School started virtually, and from the first minute of the first virtual meeting, she gained the love and trust of parents and students alike. She successfully began teaching five-year-old children through her camera, engaging with them in ways unheard, keeping their focus and keeping order. Once in-person learning started, she shepherded her students through hand washing, mask wearing, and social distancing like a pro. Her drive to teach them, keep them safe and give them normalcy in this abnormal time has been relentless. It hasn’t been easy. But, that didn’t stop Mrs. Morrison. It didn’t slow her down. There were no missed steps. She never wavered. She never faltered. What she’s overcome and accomplished this school year is simply astonishing. It is my absolute honor to nominate Mrs. Morrison for her sheer dedication, drive, and determination to make this year a success. She is magnificent and will forever be treasured.
Natalie Nelson: Teaches Second Grade at Betty Haun Elementary
Ms. Nelson has been teaching my second grader virtually since August 2020. She is so well organized and has rocked it while adapting her lessons to these unique circumstances. Despite having a very large class, she created break rooms and gives each child individual attention. She has a positive attitude about everything and encourages her students to do the same. She is such great teacher who pushes her students while leading with compassion. We are so lucky to have her as our son’s teacher.
Paige Trujillo: Teaches Art and Ceramics at Prosper High School
I have known Mrs. Trujillo since my freshman year at Braswell High School. She used to be my basketball coach, and she has been nothing but loving, supportive, and a great teacher since I’ve known her. She makes great sacrifices for her students and did the same when she was a coach. She has a connection and bond with all of the students and athletes. Every time I go into her room during school, there are at least two students who come in all happy and excited to see her and it is a great thing to observe and experience. Mrs. Trujillo makes sure everyone feels special and is one of the main reasons I’m getting through my senior year. She has been there for me through a lot and I absolutely love her.
Sarah Clopton: Teaches Fifth Grade at Harrington Elementary
My son had Ms. Clopton in third and now in fifth grade. She is constantly working to make school a challenging and fun place for the kids. She is full of energy and her spirit is contagious. Unfortunately this year the fifth graders could not go to their sleep away camp, so she created a camp for the kids at school. My son loved spending the entire of week of school doing science experiments, getting extra time outdoors to do a “hike”, and the kids were allowed to form groups, write their own plays, and present them to the grade at the end of camp. They may have missed out on camp but Ms. Clopton gave the kids a week to remember. She does all this while being just as energetic for her adopted son. She goes to all his tennis matches and you can feel the love she has for him. For all these reasons, Ms. Clopton is the best teacher!
Shanda Jaye: Teaches Seventh Grade Spanish at Arbor Creek Middle School
Ms. Jaye is a single mom with two teens. Trying to teach a foreign language with masks on had created unique challenges that Shanda has had to work extra to come up with creative learning strategies. Shanda is passionate about teaching and determined to not let any student fall behind, virtually or in person. Teaching a foreign language in this pandemic stretched her to the limit and yet she refuses to give up on her students.