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An hour in Teacher of the Year Ashlee Woodard's Classroom
An hour in Teacher of the Year Ashlee Woodard's Classroom
Rachel Luther
Thursday, January 16, 2020

Mrs. Ashlee’s class is a flurry of activity. It’s a cold, winter day and her 23 students are finishing up indoor recess. Some students are sitting on wobble chairs focused on their iPads while others chat with their friends. When you look to the back of the room, you can find Mrs. Ashlee sitting at a table, taking it all in. 

Promptly at 1:00, Mrs. Ashlee switches on her microphone and calls for center time. She is completely in control and clearly in her element. It’s time to learn. 

Immediately, the class is in full swing. Mrs. Ashlee has pulled six students to her horseshoe-shaped table and is leading the students in a walk through of their new reading group book, “The King of Spring.” A student predicts that Mrs. Ashlee has picked this book out for the group because Spring must be her favorite season. “Spring is actually my least favorite season!” Mrs. Ashlee says. “What is your favorite season?” she immediately asks the student in return. These types of exchanges happen constantly over the next thirty minutes. It’s as if Mrs. Ashlee cares as much about getting to know her students as getting them to know the content of her lesson. 

“This is a hard book!” a student later exclaims after she begins to whisper read to herself. But Mrs. Ashlee isn’t phased or intimidated by this comment. She mentions instead that she has pulled this particular group of students and this challenging book for her longest reading group for a reason. It’s because Mrs. Ashlee knows with one hundred percent certainty that this group is just on the precipice of getting it, they’re right there. So they need this “hard book” and all of Mrs. Ashlee’s coaching to become the great readers she knows they can be. 

After this assertion, it’s 1:40 and Mrs. Ashlee is a whirlwind of questioning, challenging, and coaching these students to sound out legitimately difficult words. Fluttering… Summons… Blustering… Inspected… read her first grade students. And Mrs. Ashlee praises them without lowering her expectations for even one second before she has the students read this hard book all over again for extra practice. At 1:50, one of the students exclaims, “I’ve read this book six times!” and that makes Mrs. Ashlee smile. 

By 2:00, Mrs. Ashlee’s sense of urgency, investment, and high expectations have spread outside of her small group table to the entire room. All of her students are learning and growing, and everyone has had chances to experience success. To an outsider, in just one lesson, on a single windy January afternoon, Mrs. Ashlee Woodard has demonstrated why she is the Cross County School District Teacher of the Year. But to Mrs. Ashlee, this past hour was nothing out of of the ordinary. And that’s what makes her so special.