Claire Straughn Honored As Teacher of the Year at Dundee Elementary Academy
by James Coulter
The three main R’s of education are reading, writing, and arithmetic. One teacher at Dundee Elementary Academy specializes in teaching children how to read, and that specialtyhas earned her the honor of being named the Teacher of the Year.
Claire Straughn has been teaching at Dundee Elementary School for 17 years. She started teaching kindergarten for seven years before moving up the grade levels. She now serves as a reading interventionist, assisting other teachers with helping children learn how to read.
“This is my first year as a reading interventionist,” she explained. “I also work with the ELL students, giving them extra accommodations. And just supporting the students in any way the teachers need.”
Ever since she was young, Straughn loved working with children, whether as a babysitter or as a daycare worker. In high school, she worked at a daycare center to assist with their after-school program during the summer. Her work inspired her to attend college and follow her career path as a teacher.
She started her teaching career in 2006 at Dundee Elementary Academy, where she has remained for 17 years. She started teaching kindergarten for seven years, then taught second and third grade. She has been serving her current position as a reading specialist for the past year.
Straughn has expressed an interest in potentially teaching high school. However, she remains content teaching at her current school in her current position, and she expects to remain in education for a long time.
Lana Headly, Principal, considers Straughn to be a “master teacher” most deserving of the title “Teacher of the Year.” Not only does she support her students, but also supports her staff members. She has proven to be an “instrumental part” of the school’s leadership team, with her dedication to that role allowing the school to have a “successful IB evaluation visit” this year.
“She works around the clock to support our team and our school,” Headly said. “Her expertise is welcomed by new teachers and she is a role model for our school as she has had multiple interns over the years that now serve as teachers at our school. She continues to grow the next generation of teachers for our school and district.”
Headly appreciates how Straughn goes above and beyond the call of duty to support the school. No matter the task, Straughn is more than willing to tackle it and accomplish it. Such “professional initiative” makes her a crucial, nearly irreplaceable component of Dundee Elementary Academy.
“From the minute she arrives on campus, she is ready to help and cover in any area when someone is absent to keep our school running smoothly,” Headly stated. “Anything a teacher needs to learn something new, she is eager to model for them and share everything she can.”
Monica Crosthwaite, Assistant Principal, started teaching 12 years ago. During that time, she has witnessed only excellence from Straughn, to the point where anyone else being named Teacher of the Year would seem inconceivable.
“She arrives before her contracted time and leaves well after her paid work day ends,” Crosthwaite said. “She stops at nothing to ensure our students have the best weather that [is] pulling students in small groups, planning with teachers, interpreting and dissecting data, working with a student who is having a difficult day or just organizing our day to work more efficiently. Overall, she about everyone!”
Crosthwaite most appreciates her work ethic. Straughn is more than willing to “jump in and help” any teacher or student who needs it. “I can always count on her to be ready with a positive attitude and I know the task she is given will be done correctly,” she said. “She always goes above and beyond what is expected with a smile.”
Being recognized by her fellow teachers and staff members with the honor of Teacher of the Year shows how much her hard work and effort are appreciated, she claimed.
“I get to work a little closer with many different teachers and just the amazing things they do, so to be voted and nominated as teacher of the year, it is an honor,” she said. “When I think about being nominated and voted [for], it shows I am making a difference with them, too. They see that I am there to help them and support them and make a difference with the children.”
Moreover, her biggest reward is being able to see the students she teaches happy. If she can help a child enjoy learning, and they reciprocate that enjoyment with their appreciation, then she had done her job well, she said.
“It is the students, their appreciation, and the joy that they bring,” she said. “They are excited to see me each day. Every morning. They greet you. They give you hugs. They are just excited to see you…I taught here and I love the community here,and seeing students and siblings who have grown up and seen their children, just being recognized by the students that I see each day, and knowing I am being appreciated by them is a real honor. I am really honored, and it is a joy to work here.”