By RENEE FITE
School children can often tell which teachers encourage, care and inspire learning.
For grownups, it’s not hard to remember teachers who made a difference, perhaps even helped determine a career choice, by their ability to make a subject come to life.
Elementary school is where children often decide if education is wonderful or terrible. Educators earning the Teacher of the Year award, like Brenda Spears, are those working hard to help children grow and bloom.
A career teaching appealed to her because she enjoys children.
“First of all, I love working with children,” said Spears. “My first job was baby-sitting at 13, but I thought I would go for the big bucks and be an accountant. Well, that was not working for me at all. A very sweet woman looked at me one day and said, ‘I think you would make a good teacher.’”
After some consideration, she quit a good job, moved to Tahlequah and attended college to become a teacher. She earned degrees from NSU in elementary and early childhood education.
For teachers like Spears, helping each child develop a love of learning is a vital aspect of the job. Spears has taught pre-kindergarten for nine years at Sequoyah Elementary School.
“I didn’t really choose pre-K, pre-K choose me,” said Spears. “I was switched from fourth grade to pre-K eight years ago, and although I loved the students I worked with in fourth grade, I never looked back.”
Sequoyah Elementary is the only school where Spears has taught.
“Sequoyah is all I know and love,” Spears said. “I enjoy pre-K because every day is a new day. It is never boring, and no matter how I’m feeling that day, my sweet kiddos will put a smile on my face. I love their innocence, their forgiving hearts, and their curious minds.”
Sequoyah Elementary has been a part of her life for many years, she said.
“My mother-in-law, Joanne Spears, worked at Sequoyah for 25 years. I did two of my internships here,” she said. “Sequoyah was a school before Oklahoma became a state. There’s history and lots of good stories.”
Spears understands trust is the foundation for any successful relationship.
“I have to build a positive relationship with my students, and make a connection. Once my students know I have their best interests at heart, they trust me,” she said. “We begin the process; I find what interests them and build activities that incorporate those interests. Four-year-olds require a lot of movement and music. I make it fun.”
Most of all, she wants to instill a love for learning in her students.
“I enjoy the relationships that you build with students, parents, and colleagues. Most of all, I hope to make a positive difference in student’s lives,” she said.
Spears also serves as Sequoyah’s professional development representative.
She was surprised at being named Teacher of the Year.
“[All] the teachers I work with are very deserving. I am very honored but mostly humbled,” Spears said.
She learned the good news when it was announced over the intercom.
“From our site, I received an embroidered afghan and my own parking spot,” said Spears. “I got an engraved apple clock from the district, and from my parents at school a shadow box. It was very special. It means a lot to me to know my colleagues think enough of me to represent them as their Teacher of the Year. I will treasure the shadow box forever. I have always had the best parents.”
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