Lea Wainwright’s schedule has become jam-packed in the time since she was declared Delaware Teacher of the Year in 2013.
Despite the many demands that accompany her new title, the Appoqunimink High School French teacher said that advocacy for her fellow educators is at the top of her to-do list.
“I feel a responsibility to speak for [educators] to the best of my ability,” Wainwright said. “If you know teachers and how hard they work every day, you know they deserve the best I can give.”
Creativity in and out of the classroom
The award, which was created in 1952, recognizes teachers across the nation who have excelled in educating students both in and outside of the classroom.
As Delaware Teacher of the Year, Wainwright attends and speaks at various events representing state educators. In April, she and the eighteen other teachers nominated for the title will be given the chance to meet President Obama.
While these repeated outings make it difficult for Wainwright to devote her limited time to her students, she indicated that this forces her to become more creative with her teaching methods.
“I am out of the classroom often for the Teacher of the Year and sometimes for district events,” Wainwright said. “I left a video when I was going to be away for a week so they could see me and hear instructions from that.”
Her absence from the classroom might cause her to lose time with students, but that hasn’t changed the way they feel towards her.
“She’s the most involved with her students, especially being in French V,” said Appoqunimink High School senior Sophia Takayama. “She sends us emails if we miss our classroom assignments … It’s really helpful.”
Senior Christina Ratsimbazafy suggested that Wainwright’s teaching is having an international impact.
“She’s impacted me by helping me speak better, more fluently, so I can talk to more people from Europe,” Ratsimbazafy said.
Since winning state Teacher of the Year in Oct. 2013, Wainwright reports that she has never been happier.
“There has been a tremendous outpouring of support from the community, parents, people I haven’t seen in years, students I’ve never taught, public officials, former students, [and] my current students,” Wainwright said. “I’ve received so many heartfelt notes from people I know and some I don’t, full of well-wishes and the kindest remarks.”
‘Lead with compassion and humility’
Along with the title, Teacher of the Year comes with a personal and a professional grant, to be used for classroom supplies. Winners can purchase anything from paper products to computers.
“I will be buying technology for my classroom,” she said. “I’d love to have some tablets to use in class and reliable connectivity, [and] a good web cam to speak to the French.”
With this new technology, Wainwright and her students will have more opportunities to Skype with students at Appoqunimink High’s sister school in France.
Through the experience of winning, Wainwright said that she has gained the confidence she needs to educate students at a high level and to extract the best in every one of them.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s French, math, culinary or biochemistry,” Wainwright said. “Good educators challenge students to think profoundly and use content as a means to problem solve, collaborate, communicate, and eventually lead with compassion and humility.”