CHARLESTON — On Wednesday, the West Virginia Department of Education announced the final five educators who are in the running for the prestigious West Virginia Teacher of the Year Award, and Upshur County Schools is pleased to announce one of its own has made it to the final five.
Erin Anderson, a fifth-grade teacher at Tennerton Elementary School, is one of this year’s finalists, along with Michael Knepper from Musselman High School in Berkeley County, Jessica Markwood from Moorefield High School in Hardy County, Meghan Salter from Martha Elementary School in Cabell County and Lisa Smith from Blennerhassett Elementary School in Wood County.
The announcement of the final five was made during the West Virginia Board of Education’s July meeting.
Anderson said she was so excited when she learned she was one of the top five finalists for the West Virginia Teacher of the Year Award. In fact, the announcement about the final five came on her birthday.
“We were in Canaan Valley when I first received the news,” she said. “I am grateful. I find the news unbelievable, and I am overwhelmed to be in the final five.”
She said she has three big passions associated with teaching, and her first is relationships and the kids.
“[My first is] getting to know the kids and their parents while spending time to get to know what makes them tick and spending time with them in between classes and after school,” Anderson said. “Once you have that relationship with them it helps so much in the classroom,” she said, adding that the content of learning comes second.
Finally, Anderson said she thinks it is important that her students know about careers.
“I was 100 percent sure that I wanted to be a teacher – it was the career I was exposed to the most growing up,” Anderson said. “I also think it is important to give yourself grace. We have to be patient and be good listeners. Grace is key in this professional – we need to learn from our mistakes.”
Tennerton Elementary School Principal Tristen Gray said he and the staff of Tennerton are thrilled for Anderson.
“She is so deserving of this honor because she puts her heart and soul into her job,” Gray said. “I consider myself lucky to work with her and see her students grow academically, emotionally and socially during the time we have with them. She truly makes a life-long impact on her students, and that is what you really want to see at the end of the day.”
Anderson is a 20-year veteran educator who earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education degree from West Virginia Wesleyan College and her master’s in reading from West Virginia University.
A release from the West Virginia Department of Education says Anderson is a strong believer in the importance of building relationships with her students inside and outside of the classroom and said in 2019, she started ‘Move It Mondays’ as a mileage club that invites students of all abilities to run together – rain or shine – after school. She also believes this practice strengthens relationships and builds a lifelong love of healthy habits.
In the beginning of May 2020, Anderson was tapped as the Upshur County Teacher of the Year, and her colleagues described her as a well-deserving educator, student leader and shaper of young minds.
Anderson has a myriad of training and experience that prepared her to be an excellent teacher. Those working with her said she is deeply involved in teaching, extracurricular activities and leadership at her home school as well as the community, and one colleague noted she exemplifies the characteristics of an outstanding educator: love, caring, commitment and concern.
“Mrs. Anderson represents outstanding teachers across the nation,” Upshur County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus said in a statement. “During the pandemic we have realized the importance of the relationship between the students and their teachers. A computer screen cannot replicate what a teacher does in the classroom.”
“This realization has elevated the teaching and learning experience,” Stankus added. “Mrs. Anderson truly cares about her students, she works hard to model healthy living, the importance of learning, and the impacts of kindness and humility. What an outstanding example of excellence in teaching!!! Mrs. Anderson makes Upshur County proud!! This is the first time, since Mrs. Helen Reger, Kindergarten Teacher extraordinaire, that Upshur County has had a Teacher of The Year in the final five!! Let’s go Upshur County!!”
The 2021 State Teacher of the Year is scheduled to be announced during the Teacher of the Year Gala at the West Virginia Cultural Center in Charleston on Sept. 29, 2020. The winner will represent West Virginia in the National Teacher of the Year Program.
Anderson said no matter of the outcome of the Teacher of the Year Award, she already feels like a winner.
“I have the greatest students, staff, parents and colleagues to work with and I have a wonderful support system,” Anderson said. “This is super-duper exciting, and I am prepared to celebrate teachers across West Virginia. It is a challenge for me, and I am energized by it. The challenge will be in being the spokesperson for the entire teaching profession – all of the teachers in West Virginia – if it does come down to me. I am up for that challenge and I am excited.”