Curriculum, How To

Meet the Winners of the Progress Learning Educator of the Year Contest 2023

For the first time ever, our team at Progress Learning held an Educator of the Year Contest. This contest was designed to celebrate and honor our educators who play a pivotal role in shaping the future. Our goal was to shine a light on the incredible work they do and acknowledge the profound impact they have on students’ lives and the broader community.

We asked our educators to nominate themselves or a colleague, and we received dozens of amazing submissions. Thank you to everyone who entered!

Now, without further ado…

Meet Our Educator of the Year 2023!

Our Educator of the Year for 2023 is Lizzet Austin, a 4th grade teacher at Alamo Elementary in Goose Creek Consolidated ISD in Texas. She perfectly exemplifies the four core values at Progress Learning — Learning, Diversity, Professionalism, and Unity — in everything she does. She embraces innovative teaching methods, promotes diversity in her classroom, fosters positive relationships with parents and students, and is beloved by everyone on her campus and in her community. 

Mrs. Austin was nominated by a fellow teacher on her campus. Here’s what they had to say about her: 

Learning: Mrs. Austin goes beyond imparting facts and figures; she instills a passion for knowledge. She leads her 4th grade math/science Professional Learning Community (PLC), developing concise unit plans and modeling for her teammates. Her PLC ranks #1 in the district on district assessments and is within percentage points of each other in performance. Mrs. Austin embraces innovative teaching methods, incorporating technology and real-world applications to make lessons more engaging and relevant. She has been an avid user of Progress Learning since we started using it in our District. Her students use data trackers to keep track of mastered skills and set whole group and individual goals after assessments. She creates tailored assignments and uses PL reports to ensure that every student feels valued and empowered on their learning journey.

Diversity: As a bilingual and New Arrival Center teacher for students with less than two years in the country, Mrs. Austin actively integrates diversity into her lessons, fostering an environment where students learn to appreciate and respect each other’s unique qualities. She helps students make connections between math and science concepts and their own lives, in English and Spanish. Mrs. Austin is a member of the district Culturally Relevant Teaching team, and presented at the district level about the importance of CRT practices. She holds the district accountable by advocating for quality instructional resources in English and Spanish to support our Dual language and New Arrival students. Her students use Progress Learning daily because tools such as the Language toggle and visual explanations help her reach all students.

Professionalism: Mrs. Austin fosters positive relationships with students, colleagues, and parents, creating a collaborative atmosphere that enhances the overall educational experience. She has served as a new teacher mentor on numerous occasions, which is a testament to her willingness and ability to build strong teachers.

Unity: Mrs. Austin recognizes the importance of teamwork and collaboration, instilling in her students the understanding that collective efforts yield greater results than individual achievements. Through collaborative projects, group activities, and community engagement initiatives, she fosters a sense of unity among students. Mrs. Austin and her co-teacher Mrs. Vega communicate and collaborate with parents from the beginning of the school year. Often, parents of New Arrival students are hesitant to come to family nights or community events at our school due to language barriers, but teachers like Mrs. Austin go out of their way to make all families feel welcome. She leaves a mark on the lives of her students, as evidenced by the number of families who greet her when they see her, or the students who sneak back into her room to say hello to her, even after they have graduated!

As the winner of this year’s Educator of the Year Contest, Mrs. Austin received $500 and a $300 spa certificate. Congratulations Mrs. Austin, and thank you for everything you do! You have truly made a difference in the lives of your students, fellow educators, and community.  

Honorable Mentions

We couldn’t pick just 1 winner! In addition to our grand prize winner, we selected 5 exemplary educators whom we wanted to honor and shout out for their incredible leadership, dedication, and compassion.  

  1.  LuTongel Few, Glenn Hills High School, Richmond County, Georgia

Ms. Few, an educator at Glenn Hills High School, demonstrates a profound commitment to fostering an environment of learning, diversity, professionalism, and unity. She exemplifies the spirit of lifelong learning and is currently pursuing her doctorate in education. She is known for her tireless work ethic and often works far into the evenings, crafting engaging lesson plans and reading about the latest teaching techniques. Here’s what a fellow educator at her school said about her:

Learning: Ms. Few genuinely cares about her students’ unique needs and recognizes the diversity in their learning styles and backgrounds… Her classroom is a testament to the dynamic nature of learning. By incorporating interactive activities, hands-on experiments, and real-world applications into her lessons, she goes beyond traditional teaching methods.

Diversity: Ms. Few fosters an inclusive space where students from various backgrounds, with distinct learning styles and perspectives, come together. Through her encouragement of open dialogue and collaboration, she creates an environment that values and appreciates diversity.

Professionalism: From meticulously planned lessons to staying abreast of the latest scientific developments, Ms. Few sets a high standard for herself and her students.

Unity: Unity is a philosophy actively cultivated in her classroom. Through collaborative projects, group discussions, and a sense of shared purpose, she fosters a spirit of unity among her students.

  1. Brittany Haynes, 9th Grade Teacher, Campbell High School, Cobb County, Georgia

Next is Brittany Haynes, a 9th grade teacher at Campbell High School in Georgia. She is being recognized for her incredible leadership, her love for her community, and the ingenious ways she works with data to enhance student outcomes. Here’s what her nominator had to say:

Mrs. Haynes epitomizes the essence of leadership through her innovative approach to formative assessment and data collection. She doesn’t just teach; she empowers students by using data-driven insights to tailor instruction to their individual needs. Mrs. Haynes has worked tirelessly to create a student-centered “data tracker” utilizing the standards to empower students to take ownership in their own learning. Through her “data tracker” and her use of varied formative assessment options, she has completely changed the culture of testing and grades in her classroom.

Mrs. Haynes consistently redefines the concept of grades by using them not just as markers of achievement, but as tools to empower students and build a growth mindset. She has managed to foster an environment where grades serve as feedback, guiding students toward improvement rather than merely measuring final outcomes. Through her student-centered grading approach to learning, students are able to celebrate their successes and see failure as exciting learning opportunities.

Mrs. Haynes has completely changed the school culture of feedback through her knowledge of instruction and her love of sharing with her community. She regularly hosts after-school opportunities for both students and parents to interact with learning and the data collection process so the parents see their students in more detail than a simple grade on a paper. It is truly an honor to work with Mrs. Haynes, and I look forward to seeing more from her in the future.

  1. Deidre Hartman, South Girard Junior High School, Phenix City, Alabama

Our 3rd honorable mention is Deidre Hartman, a dedicated educator who has been teaching for 22 years. She is being recognized for her passion, her use of differentiated instruction in her classroom, and her unique ability to balance professionalism and compassion with her students. Here’s what she had to say about her teaching style:

As an educator, I do take my job seriously and am passionate about it. I believe all students have the ability to learn and succeed. I try to make sure all students are learning. All of my students don’t learn at the same pace, therefore, I incorporate differentiated learning in my classroom. I also allow students to help each other when necessary.

When students are in my classroom, we are unified. I let them know that we will all treat others with respect regardless of background, learning styles, and lifestyles.

I like to make learning fun by incorporating hands-on activities and using materials that we see and use in everyday life. I also like to laugh with my students to let them know we are all human and learning can be fun. When it comes to interacting with students, I do understand there is a fine line between being a caring adult and being a friend. As a professional, I do not let my desire to be liked by students get in the way of enforcing classroom and school rules. I do not show favoritism or discriminate against students. I like incorporating what my students are interested in.

  1. Randy Coleman, Middle School Teacher, Stumbo Elementary, Floyd County, Kentucky

Our 4th honorable mention is Randy Coleman. He teaches 5th-8th grade social studies at a small, rural middle school in Southeastern Kentucky. He takes his role as an educator very seriously and works to nurture his students and turn them into contributing members of society. Here’s what his nominator said about him:

Mr. Coleman has been a mentor to young men and young women throughout his teaching career. He has been a coach at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. He has held various leadership roles at his school and within the district. He has had the highest social studies scores on state testing at the district, regional, and even state levels on the KPREP and KSA. He is a triple threat of classroom teaching- students look, listen, and learn in his classes. Students may be taking notes one day, and the next, creating a diorama of a Revolutionary War scene. Mr. Coleman uses various teaching strategies to engage students in learning about world and US history. He uses Progress Learning as a tool to enhance that learning.

  1. Shannon Rogers, Strong-Huttig School District, Arkansas

Last but not least is Shannon Rogers. A dedicated educator for 15 years, she is incredibly nurturing, caring, and loving (although some might call it tough love!). She goes above and beyond for her students in countless ways, including feeding them and doing their hair. Here’s what her nominator said about her:

Mrs. Rogers is passionate about her role. Never does she take any phase of her job lightly. The students love Mrs. Rogers. Although she can be a little tough on them, they act as though she has a magnet on her. They cling to her as though she is going to leave and go somewhere. Additionally, I have seen her take students with the worst behaviors and turn them around. As an educator, she works hard to ensure each child is being served. This is the type of teacher you want to educate your child.

Mrs. Rogers will feed her students, do their hair, and personally buy clothing items if she needs to. There is no limit as to what she will do for her students. If all educators would work as hard as Mrs. Rogers our schools would never have to worry about academically failing. Each day is a new day for a new learning experience. That is what is going on in Mrs. Rogers’s ELA classroom. Ultimately, Mrs. Rogers sets goals and achieves them. Her students exceed.

Our honorable mentions each received Progress Learning swag baskets. Congratulations to all 5 of you!

Congrats Everyone!

We wanted to give a massive round of applause to all our winners, as well as to everyone who entered our first-ever Educator of the Year Contest. Your passion and hard work are truly inspiring, and we’re grateful for each and every one of you. 

If you didn’t win this year or didn’t have a chance to enter, watch out for the 2024 Educator of the Year Contest later this year!

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