Wyoming Education Association

Fall 2021

Issue link: https://digital.copcomm.com/i/1419437

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Page 11 of 31

Wyoming's 2022 Teacher of the Year WEA News caught up with first-grade teacher at Harrison Elementary School in Green River and WEA member Brittney Montgomery. Montgomery has been named Wyoming's 2022 Teacher of the Year. She shared with us what makes an excellent educator, her goals for her students, and how schools and educators can serve the whole student. "I still well up with tears at the mentio n of it," says Montgomery of her Teacher of the Year award. "It is truly a blessing to be recognized considering all the incredible educators we are fortunate to have across the State of Wyoming." According to Montgomery, the key to being an excellent educator lies in building relationships and serving the whole student. "Oftentimes, teachers are called "mom" or "dad" by students. While it may be an accide ntal slip, we truly have become their parents in a sense," she says, "because we are their caregivers, entertainment, nurses, counselors, and so much more." Montgomery works toward helping students grow and thrive, not only academically but socially and emotionally, as well. "When students enter my classroom, they become my world," she says. "We are a family in my classroom. On our very first day together, we discuss the importance of our classroom community and our roles in it. This builds into our roles as members of our community, state, country, and world. While I am conscious of my students' academic growth, I also focus deeply on making sure they know how much they matter and that each of them has something special to offer the world." Teachers fill many roles and serve many needs in any given year. B ut recent school years have posed unique challenges for both students and educators. "Many students are coming to us with anxiety and depression. We are teaching them strategies to recognize and address their feelings. We are listening and making sure the students feel heard, loved, and supported," says Montgomery. "Teaching has always been a profession that encompasses so much more than simply "teaching." But our profession has evolved over the years and even more so when the Pandemic hit," she said. "We are responsible for the physical, mental, social, and academic growth of our students. Daily we are making sure their basic needs are being met—educators make sure students have food, clothing, supplies, and, especially, love." So, what advice does our 2022 Teacher of the Year have for fellow educators wor king to excel in their profession and provide students the best possible education? "In my opinion, an excellent educator is someone who teaches the whole child," she says. "The best educators don't focus only on academics and growth in data points. An excellent educator is someone who takes time to build relationships and trust first. Excellent educators make sure the needs of their students are met befor e they try to teach them content. Do they feel safe and loved? Have they eaten and had enough sleep? Do they have clothes and personal hygiene taken care of? These have to be in place before academic work begins." Montgomery's goals for her students when they leave her classroom transcend their traditional education. "I want them to leave knowing how to be self-aware, how to appropriately solve conflicts, how to advocate for themselves and their peers, how to make important decisions in their lives, and how to have a positive impact on the world," she shared. "If a student leaves my classroom prepared academically, I've accomplished my teaching job. My goal, though, is that they leave my classroom feeling loved, supported, heard, and prepared to have a positive lasting impact on our world beyond the classro om." 12

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