French teacher named Delaware’s Teacher of the Year [video]

 (Charlie O'Neil/ for NewsWorks)

(Charlie O'Neil/ for NewsWorks)

Appoqunimink High School French teacher Lea Wainwright is Delaware’s 2014 Teacher of the Year.

The Middletown native was selected out of 19 finalists in the state and is the 50th teacher to represent Delaware in the National Teacher of the Year program.

The announcement was made during a ceremony Tuesday evening at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino.

“I’m sitting there at the dinner and I’m listening and I’m going, ‘wow, I don’t know who it’s going to be but we are all phenomenal and who ever it’s going to be is a great representative for the state of Delaware.’”

Wainwright began teaching in 1993 and has worked with students on the middle school, high school and community college level. Over the years, she has developed a global approach to teaching even traveling with her students abroad and web chatting via Skype with a sister school near Paris, France.

“Kids can use the language and not just study it out of a text book,” she said. “I think that’s important for them and it helps them realize that what they do has a ripple effect across the globe.”

Wainwright said she enjoys watching her student utilize the language as a tool to discuss international relations.

“I really think the language isn’t the important part, it’s just the vehicle to make them think outside the classroom,” she said.

Wainwright explained that fifth year students recently conducted presentations on global concerns and the topic of deforestation in the Rainforest sparked a lively debate in the classroom.

“They were so angry and on the edge of their seat and spouting questions back and fourth and then I realized, it was all in French,” she said.

Wainwright will spend the next year representing Delaware at national meetings and conferences.

“I’m going to get fantastic ideas from teachers all across the country,” she said. “We do a lot of traveling and getting together and hashing out some ideas about all kinds of concerns and just how to reach our students better.”

Wainwright added that she’s excited to see what happens next and has already received some good advice on what to expect.

“For the past 10 years, every Teacher of the Year keeps a journal and they collect it and then pass it on to the next person, just giving some advice about, ‘make sure you don’t wear the same outfit to every event, make sure to always be prepared with a tissue because you’re probably going to cry a lot,’” she said. “So it’s really good, down to earth information.”

As Teacher of the Year, Wainwright will receive a $5,000 grant for her classroom, and two personal grants totaling $5,000. She will also receive an $18,000 educational technology package from SMART Technologies.

The 18 other candidates will each receive a personal grant of $2,000.

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