The Salina USD 305 School District honored its teachers of the year Tuesday evening.
According to the district, Tiffany Wooten, adaptive special education teacher at Stewart Elementary, and Kelly Heizman, South High School English teacher, have been selected as USD 305 Teachers of the Year. They were honored by the Salina Board of Education. As part of their recognition, Wooten and Heizman each received the H.E. and Erma Lee Nuss Teacher of the Year award; personalized watches donated by Randy Johnson, Jostens, and Mary Kindlesparger, Coldwell Banker, Antrim-Piper Realtors; and gift certificates donated by Martinelli’s Little Italy.
Each year two instructors are nominated for the Kansas Teacher of the Year program. The awards are sponsored by the Kansas State Department of Education and affiliated with the National Teacher of the Year program. For 2015, nominations were sought in the spring and the district nominees were submitted to the state in late March.
Elementary Teacher of the Year: Tiffany Wooten
From Washburn University Tiffany received her bachelors in elementary educationTiffany Wooten
where she is currently completing her masters in adaptive special education K-6.
At Stewart, Tiffany is known to be energetic, caring and full of innovative ideas. She works tirelessly in and outside of school, advocating for all students, especially those with special needs. Tiffany helps with the school marathon each fall and attends weekly Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) with her special education team. She strongly believes in community and student involvement and she coaches high school volleyball.
To involve younger students, she started a program called Volleydolls which aims to teach young girls how to be empowered, independent and team players. As an added bonus, her high school athletes signed on as volunteers for the program.
During her free time Tiffany tutors homebound students, she coordinates a Peer Signing Club for deaf students and during her summer she is in charge of the district’s Special Education summer school. She coordinates a monthly training for paras who work at Stewart Elementary, resulting in stronger instruction and support for high-risk students.
Tiffany is knowledgeable about and skilled in effective instructional and learning strategies. She is keenly aware of students’ individual learning styles and academic needs and understands the importance of knowing students in order to identify the most effective teaching strategies for them. “To quickly gain knowledge of students, educators must make connections with them. These connections should be used to educate students in every way applicable,” shared Tiffany.
She knows her students and finds a balance so that all students are learning in her classroom. In fact, 100 percent of her special education students made adequate growth on the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress).
Academic success is at the heart of her work, but Tiffany believes that students deserve to have joy in their successes. Rhonda Bird, Assistant Director of Special education at CKCIE, stated, “She promotes enthusiasm and motivation for learning. Her relationship with her students is one of caring, respect, fairness and high expectations.” Tiffany’s beliefs are reflected in one of her favorite quotes by Albert Einstein.“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”Tiffany’s students’ successes bring this quote to life. Her dedication to learning and teaching make her an exemplary Kansas teacher.
Secondary Teacher of the Year: Kelly Heizman
Kelly received her undergraduate degree in education/secondary language arts from the University of Oklahoma. Before earning her master’s in K-12 administration from Emporia StateKelly Heizman University she studied special education at the University of Kansas.
Since the fourth grade, when a kind teacher shared her enthusiasm for learning and made sure students felt as though they truly belonged at school, Kelly knew she was destined to be a teacher. Her instincts for identifying what students need are strong; she makes sure that each student is challenged but also finds success. She is gifted at working with people, whether students or teachers.
Kelly works as a mentor teacher, offering new teachers the perfect combination of support and empowerment. She is an active member of the Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) and was instrumental in creating a model program to target reading skills. She developed the assessment and intervention model and guided implementation of intervention groups for struggling readers. Her communication with staff and ability to gain commitment from her peers resulted in the creation of a process to better meet student needs.
In addition to many other professional activities, Kelly started the Link Crew program to help transition freshmen into South High School. She is drawn to freshmen’s enthusiasm and intent on making sure they feel that they belong at the high school. Older students work with the freshmen throughout the year, serving as role models and gathering each month to provide a support group to help deal with the pressures of high school.
In Kelly’s literature classes, students learn concepts through activities, writing labs, and reading. She explains, “Students relating literature to their daily life causes a connection that cements an experience to a lifetime.” Kelly front loads her lessons with essential questions to explore, research and connect to life. Together with her students, they approach reading as detectives working to gather evidence to find answers to their questions.
Consistently, Kelly plans and delivers solid instruction, builds strong rapport with students, collaborates effectively with peers and seeks ways to grow professionally. She knows all students can learn; students know that she expects success and that she will provide support to help them along the way. Through her creative lessons student learning is high and discipline problems are minimal. Kelly possesses the qualities that fellow teachers want to emulate.