Fort Wayne Community Schools teachers Debra Honn and Lisa Clegg logged onto Zoom on Thursday expecting to join their principals for a meeting they soon learned was a ruse.
They are the FWCS Teachers of the Year, Superintendent Wendy Robinson told them via the video conferencing tool.
FWCS typically doesn't select multiple teachers for the honor, but a few years ago the state began allowing districts to submit two, district spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.
“This year, we added some new recognition programs for employees, and from that, we ended up with double the number of TOY nominees,” Stockman said by email. “We had 42 complete the application process this year. Because there were so many excellent teachers, we decided to recognize one for each level.”
Honn is the FWCS Elementary Teacher of the Year, and Clegg is the FWCS Secondary Teacher of the Year.
Honn has taught for 25 years, the past five at Indian Village Elementary School. She is credited for reviving the school's annual science fair and starting a robotics club, according to a news release.
“I am impressed each time I visit her classroom,” Principal Kara Miller said in a statement. “The passion and energy she exudes to help her students learn and grow is contagious. Mrs. Honn tailors her classroom so that it is an engaging learning environment for each and every student.”
Getting to know her third graders and building relationships with them is important to Honn.
“Knowing my students' strengths, weaknesses, background and interests helps me to design learning experiences that are meaningful and measurable,” Honn said. “While there are many ways to reach a learner, it is my responsibility to understand which approach works with each child.”
Clegg has taught for eight years, including two at Northrop High School. She works with English-language learners, students who come from 28 countries and speak more than 30 languages, according to a news release.
One way Clegg builds community with her students is through food.
“Breaking bread brings people together, and nowhere is that more important than in a multi-lingual, multi-cultural classroom,” Clegg said in a statement. “Everyone speaks the language of food.”
Clegg's students have experienced significant growth in learning English, Northrop Principal Erica Almas said.
“When I think of the qualities of a Teacher of the Year candidate, an unwavering drive for student success is one of the first characteristics that comes to mind,” Almas said in a statement. “Lisa embodies this. Her dedication and can-do attitude will continue to have a positive impact on our students and staff.”
Principals nominate educators for Teacher of the Year, and finalists are chosen by a committee of administrators.
The other elementary finalists were Angela Geren, second grade teacher at Adams Elementary School; Meghan Rusk, fifth grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School; and Ashley Toy, art teacher at Towles Intermediate School.
Secondary finalists were Katherine Frisk, eighth grade language arts/social studies teacher at Memorial Park Middle School; Julie Hadaway, business teacher at Wayne High School; and Jennifer Slone, art teacher at South Side High School.
Traditionally, the FWCS Teacher of the Year is nominated for Indiana Teacher of the Year. The Indiana Department of Education announced Tuesday all Indiana teachers, collectively, are being named 2021 Teachers of the Year.