Elkin Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Mary Shepherd officially named as Elkin City Schools 2014 Teacher of the Year on Friday at the Year End Recognitions celebration.
School officials, the school board and teachers celebrated the school year achievements and journey to come at Dixon Auditorium at Elkin High School.
Shepherd, Angela Adams from Elkin Middle School and Chaise Swisher of Elkin High School were each named Teachers of the Year in their respective schools earlier.
Human Resource Specialist for ECS Allison Moxley presented the district 2014 Teacher of the Year award to Shepherd. The award came complete with a standing ovation from colleagues.
Shepherd has been teaching for 14 years and received her Master of Arts in teaching from Alaska Pacific University. Moxley told ECS officials and staff that Shepherd’s family and life in Alaska and life’s adventures helped teach her the questions to ask in the magic of learning. Moxley said it was due to Shepherd’s passion in the sciences that she has become known as the “go to” person for science presentations for organizations like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Moxley said Shepherd “expects everyone to buckle their seat belts, put on their crash helmets and be ready for a wild and controlled ride.” For Shepherd, life is too short to waste on the sidelines, and “she believes all children can learn,” said Moxley.
Shepherd displays tremendous character and “treats everyone at the school with the utmost respect, is a leader and great example for other students. (Shepherd) possesses the art of engaging students while encouraging them to think outside the box,” said Moxley.
After receiving the award, Shepherd addressed and thanked her colleagues and those in the auditorium, “I really do appreciate this opportunity. I could not do it without my fifth-grade team.”
Shepherd added, “It has been a wonderful experience for me coming into this state from Alaska.”
Colleagues laughed as Shepherd recounted the experience of learning a new culture in Elkin after she brought in some of her own from Alaska.
Shepherd brought with her the important beliefs about berry picking “as important as hiking” to some in the North.
She recalled how at a potluck gathering she brought Agutuk, an Eskimo ice cream traditionally served at special gatherings and made quite a first impression. Many of her new friends and colleagues were enjoying the treat until someone asked the ingredients. Shepherd revealed that baked and peeled whitefish, sugar, Crisco and blueberries were in the mixture.
There was “quite a gasp ” and Shepherd said she wasn’t sure how well her good intentions went over after all.
In her unique style, Shepherd said she learned an early lesson from the cultural food experience, and put the tool of cultivating an appreciation of cultural awareness and differences to work in the classroom.
Shepherd issued a summer challenge to her friends and colleagues before leaving the podium. She urged, “I encourage you to commit on the action of reflection.” She said to reflect is active and emphasized a willingness to consider what one can change.
She reminded that teaching will remain a 24-hour job requiring reflection.
“It is the best gift we can give to our children,” concluded Shepherd.
Elkin City Schools Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe announced, “She does a great job.”
Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.