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Finalists for 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year announced

Five Springfield Public Schools teachers have been named finalists for the 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year. Selected from 171 nominations, all five will be recognized Monday, April 15, during the Teacher Appreciation Banquet with the Teacher of the Year announced at the close of the event. 

Hosted by the Foundation for Springfield Public Schools, the banquet will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Oasis Convention Center. 

The finalists are: 

Shari Balla, Wonder Years, York Elementary School

Shari Balla I believe students need to be welcomed by unconditional love when they enter my classroom. My most challenging students will meet my highest expectations when I have built a relationship of love and connectedness in a safe environment.  I foster an environment of problem solving and self-regulation. An atmosphere of acceptance where diversity is celebrated! All the while meeting the student’s most basic need if necessary because ethically it is the right thing for me to do.

Courtney Dameron, Family and Consumer Sciences, Hillcrest High School

Courtney Dameron I believe in engaging curriculum that benefits a student for their lifespan. No one ever leaves my classroom saying, “When am I ever going to use this?!” I try to make learning engaging and relevant for students through hands on, memorable experiences. Making a memory of a concept is going to stay with them. I try my best to not just instruct or have my students read about important ideas or facts, but for them to discover and experience it. It is essential to put all the pieces in front of them, and have them put the puzzle together for themselves. If I can get my hands on real, tangible items to make a lesson come alive, I will strive to give my kids the opportunity to engage their senses and gain practical knowledge that will stick with them. When all the pieces fit: the direct instruction, plus acquainting themselves with the physical aspects, and finally, assessing its worth in their lives, that’s when they have mastered the concept and I have served the students well.

Beth McIntyre, English Language Arts, Central High School

Beth McIntyre Teaching is neither an art nor a science: it is a craft that must be practiced; a set of skills that must be honed. Every teacher enters the profession with a set of expectations and tools, and those who continue in the profession learn to modify those expectations, add new tools, and accept that if they want to train lifelong learners, they must be lifelong learners.


Audra Uzzell, Springfield Scholars, Phelps Center

audra uzzell I believe in creating lasting relationships that allow students to see me as an adult that is looking out for their best educational interests! Once that has been established, be creative, learn from others and make learning fun (engaging - laugh at your mistakes, tell stories about your content, and relevant life experiences), relevant (make education realistic to the past, present, and future), and personalized (do not be afraid of the kids who know more than you). Finally, never stop learning, and model what you expect from your students!

Kevin Zimmerman, Fine Arts, Harrison Elementary School

kevin Zimmerman Making connections is expressed in two ways for me, the personal, human connection that I develop with my students and the cross-curricular connection my art content makes with all other disciplines. When I say I “teach” art, I really wish to say I teach a bit of everything. The more pathways the brain makes to a piece of information, the better the recall and the longer the information is held. It is so much fun to relate art to careers, to share the mathematics found in sketching, or to show the cultural and historical relevance of artists and time periods. It reinforces learning to make clear the science behind color theory or optical illusion, to have students write meaningful vocabulary or create a written reflection of a painting, or to express the importance of technology and art. Art transcends its boundaries and spills into everything else. I take advantage of this to make meaningful, enjoyable, long-lasting learning.

Posted:  April 1, 2019