Instead of picking just one Teacher of the Year, the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce honored educators from all three grade levels Wednesday during its 84th annual awards dinner.
This year’s recipients are Sherry Dart from Emerson Elementary School, Wayne Huddleston from Seymour Middle School and Chris Rose from Seymour High School.
Teachers were nominated by co-workers, friends and the public, and the winners were chosen by the chamber’s education committee.
Of the three, Huddleston has been teaching the longest at 40 years, 36 of which have been in Seymour. He will retire at the end of this school year and said he feels blessed to be going out on top.
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“It is a very humbling experience since I work with many deserving teachers,” he said of receiving the award. “It takes good students, parents, colleagues and administrators to be successful.”
The award marks the second time he has been named Teacher of the Year by the chamber. He was first honored in 1990.
Currently an eighth-grade math teacher, Huddleston also has taught middle school health and physical education and health and driver’s education during the summer at the high school.
He said he can relate to students who struggle because he never was a gifted student himself.
“I just worked very hard,” he said.
Former Seymour resident Alan Gerth said he was in Huddleston’s math class 20 years ago and owes him a lot for the lessons he learned and still uses today.
“He got me to apply myself better than any other teacher before or after him,” Gerth said. “The fact that he’s still getting honored in 2015 speaks volumes about him.”
Another former student, Krystal Harrell of Seymour, agreed Huddleston was the best math teacher she ever had.
“The skills he drilled into us were the very reason I was successful in high school and college-level math courses,” she said. “He didn’t play favorites and expected the same work from each student. He demanded respect and in return respected his students.”
Huddleston said he became a teacher simply because he liked to work with youth and enjoyed being able to help them.
With several relatives who were teachers, he said, teaching might be in his blood.
He also coached football, wrestling and girls track for more than 25 years and coached the middle school math academic team, which won many awards.
Coaching allowed him to get to know students and parents on a more personal level, he said.
As part of his legacy at SMS, Huddleston helped start the math club’s annual winter coat drive, the annual Christmas party for students with disabilities and the SMS Hall of Fame.
He said more students need to be recognized and honored for their academic pursuits.
“If we would work as hard to acknowledge academics as we do athletics, we would see a big difference in the attitudes our kids have about learning,” he said.
One of his favorite aspects of teaching is developing lesson plans that will help students master and retain important mathematical concepts. Although his methods, which include cumulative review, repetition, memory work and teaching concepts in incremental steps, aren’t appreciated by most education experts today, Huddleston said, it’s what his students and their parents appreciate most about his classes.
“The teachers and students realize it is beneficial, but it is not always the most popular thing to do,” he said.
Although he has taught many students how to understand algebra and other areas of advanced math throughout the years, Huddleston said he also has learned much from others, the most important lesson being patience.
“Some students need a kick in the pants, while other students need encouragement,” he said. “As I look back, my most difficult and challenging students, parents and administrators helped me become a better teacher and person.”
His decision to retire wasn’t an easy one to make, but his age and the stress and demands of the occupation have worn him down, he said.
“The community often has a difficult time realizing how stressful and draining teaching can be,” he said. “It takes a lot of extra time to do the things that help students master academic material. Teaching is not a 40-hour-a-week job.”
‘I guess I kind of fit in’
Chris Rose has taught language arts at Seymour High School since 1981. It has been his first and only job.
Currently, he teaches Advanced Placement English Language for upperclassmen and English 10. He also has spent more than 30 years coaching football and track.
With so many deserving teachers in Seymour, Rose said, he doesn’t see himself as the best.
“I am thrilled just to be counted among them,” he said.
His favorite part of teaching is knowing he can make a difference in his students’ lives.
“I love the idea that I may have a small part in someone’s success later in life,” he said.
Melissa Wagner of Brownstown had Rose for freshman composition and literature and said he was one of the teachers who prompted her go into the field of education.
“Mr. Rose brought ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to life and made it understandable,” she said. “He even found creative ways to incorporate episodes of ‘The Twilight Zone.’ He connected with his students, and that is half the battle in being a good teacher.”
Wagner, the French teacher at SHS, said she is honored to now call him a colleague.
Rose said he sets high expectations for those in his classes because all kids can rise to the occasion.
“Teaching has given me faith that our future is in good hands,” he said. “I am witness far more times to the good in our students than the bad. Education is dependent upon the adults to set clear and consistent expectations and to be sure they are the right ones to help students be happy and successful.”
Rose credits his decision to become a teacher to his own sixth-grade science teacher in Corydon, Mr. Hauswald.
“He was the first teacher who I remember really enjoyed students,” he said. “Mr. Hauswald laughed and joked with us, and I thought then that I’d like to have that much fun when I grow up.”
He also said he owes much of his success as a teacher to now-retired co-worker Brantley Blythe. Blythe also taught language arts, including AP English.
“If I do anything well in the classroom, it’s probably because I got it from him,” Rose said.
Although he has been nominated in the past, this is the first time Rose has been named Teacher of the Year.
A change in profession
In her 10 years as a teacher, Sherry Dart said she has learned as much from her students as they have from her.
She teaches third grade at Emerson but began her teaching career in 2004 at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School. She also has been nominated for the award before.
Although she’s grateful to be recognized as a Teacher of the Year, Dart said that, if she has done anything well, it’s because of the administrators who motivate her and her peers who inspire her.
Before becoming a teacher, Dart spent 10 years as an accountant.
“I made a change in profession so that I could make a difference in the lives of others,” she said. “But I believe that my life experiences have made me a better teacher.”
The biggest thing a teacher can do for students is care for them and help them understand their value, Dart said.
One of Dart’s former students, Stephanni Kleber of Seymour, said she loved being in her class for two years.
“She was the best teacher I’ve had,” Kleber said. “She is always there for her students and explains everything well and never leaves anyone behind.”
Dart said being a teacher has taught her to be a lifelong learner, and she sees her students as gifts.
“I absolutely love to learn, and I like to think that curiosity and excitement is passed on to my students and peers,” she said. “If they are excited about learning, then I am, too.”