BUCKHANNON – 2021 West Virginia Teacher of the Year Erin Anderson was congratulated on her win during the Nov. 5 Upshur County Commission meeting.
A fifth-grade teacher at Tennerton Elementary School, Anderson was presented with a plaque from the commission, and she expressed gratitude to the community and the state.
“I’ve attended local and state board meetings, written numerous speeches and I’ve received so many messages, texts, emails, cards and phone calls from students, former students, families, former teachers — those are the ones that get me every time,” Anderson said. “I appreciate each and every one of those, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from this community.”
In the next year, she plans on attending appearances, engagements and committee meetings, but she knows she’ll miss her classroom and students the most.
“I’m honestly already starting to grieve some time away from my classroom, and the time away from my kids, but I know that this is God’s plan for me right now,” Anderson said. “For some reason, He believes I’m the person to do this job. My friends have apologized to me and said ‘Erin, I’m so sorry that this happened to you during the pandemic,’ and I said, ‘it’s fine, this is the perfect timing.’”
She said during a panel discussion with state superintendent Clayton Burch and the five finalists, they were asked a question about teaching during the pandemic and Anderson discussed its impact on teachers.
“I shared that I get my value from the work that I do, and the time I spend with kids and celebrating successes in the classroom, and I shared my excitement with going back to school – that we’ll probably never take in-person learning for granted again,” Anderson said. “I said, as teachers, we get our identity from our work in the classroom, and until we had our students in front of us again, it felt like something was missing. But after those first few days of kids back in the building and our people in front of us, we were back, and we were ready to teach.”
Anderson said she feels most like herself when she is teaching, in person or virtually.
“The students need their teachers; the teachers need their students,” she said. “I call it the heart of the teacher, or teacher identity – it’s just who we are, and when I’m in front of a classroom full of kids or half full of kids or staring at their heads on [Microsoft] Teams, I feel more like me in that moment than at any other time,” Anderson said. “I’m forever grateful for this recognition: It ranks up there with birthing and nursing a child, getting a master’s degree, my hardest, most rewarding experiences up until now.”
Superintendent of Upshur County Schools Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus said Anderson is an example of a person growing up and working in Upshur County – one who is a homegrown success story.
“Mrs. Anderson, represents not only our teachers, but she represents a child growing up in Upshur County, going through our school system, and becoming an amazing contributor to our community and our state,” Stankus said. “I think it’s just a great tribute to our community and what we do to nurture great people, so thank you, Erin.”
Principal of Tennerton Elementary School Tristen Gray said he was not surprised when Anderson became Teacher of the Year.
“I’ve been working with her for about six years and I can attest to everything Dr. Stankus has said because I get to see it every day,” Grey said. “We’re so appreciative of her and the effort she puts in, and I wasn’t shocked at all when they announced her name that night, because it was more than deserving, and we’re extremely proud of her.”