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Milton High French instructor named Fulton Teacher of the Year | People

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Milton High French instructor named Fulton Teacher of the Year
People, Schools
Milton High French instructor named Fulton Teacher of the Year

MILTON, Ga. -- The Fulton County School System is proud to announce that Shelby Steinhauer is the district's Teacher of the Year for 2011-2012.

Steinhauer, who teaches French at Milton, was delivered the news on Wednesday, Apr. 27 during a surprise announcement at the school.

Each spring, Fulton County schools are invited to nominate outstanding educators based on teacher, staff and parent input.

These professionals are then evaluated a second time, and one Elementary, Middle and High School Teacher of the Year is announced. From these final three educators, one is chosen as Overall Teacher of the Year.

The system's Elementary School Teacher of the Year is Franklin Burns from Spalding Drive Charter Elementary. Jennifer Foil from Holcomb Bridge Middle is the Middle School Teacher of the Year.

These three teachers will serve as examples to their Fulton County colleagues for the next academic year.

Shelby Steinhauer

The French would say that Shelby Steinhauer has a certain je ne sais quoi -- that is, an indefinable quality that sets her apart from others.

She has taught in Georgia, New York, Washington D.C., Nepal and India, and has lived in Europe, Asia and North America. Steinhauer has also worked with the Peace Corps and traveled the world, discovering that all children, despite their varied backgrounds, have the same desire -- to learn and grow.

"All children -- American, Nepali, Indian, Iraqi, Sudanese, Mexican, Canadian -- all -- they all deserve schooling. We may have different cultures and environments, but education is a basic human right," Steinhauer wrote in her Teacher of the Year application. "My philosophy of education, born of my experience abroad, is that teachers must give all of themselves, 100% of the time, to every student, every day. Any less is simply not enough. Teachers must be present in the moment; they must have an abiding love for their students -- not as a group, but one by one -- and they must display a passion that will capture the imagination of every child every day. We don't teach our subject matter -- we teach human beings."

Steinhauer embodies her philosophy by making her classroom the most interesting, inviting place it can be. Set up like a French café, it exposes students to the language in a real, memorable way.

"I consistently hear outsiders say, 'I took French or Spanish or German for five years and I don't remember anything,'" she said. "My students will never say that. The ones that go through the program leave high school highly proficient or fluent in French."

A proponet of professional development, Steinhauer has kept himself immersed in the latest research as well as skilled in leadership and teaching strategies.

However, she says the extra education doesn't replace a teacher's love and passion for what she does.

"Over the past two decades, I have yet to see a strategy on a training for increasing student learning that is more powerful than love for students and passion for teaching. It's like magic; it's foolproof, and the best part is, it's available to everyone and it doesn't cost a dime," she said.

As Fulton County's Teacher of the Year, Steinhauer will share that love and passion as she represents the district in the Georgia Teacher of the Year program, which will announce its winner next spring.

Franklin Burns

Burns, a fourth and fifth grade teacher at Spalding Drive Charter School in Sandy Springs, describes his teaching style as "very high energy" and is always seeking a way to connect his students with the material they are learning.

One year, Burns' students read "Twenty One Balloons" by William Pene du Bois, a tale of an extravagant man who travels the world in a hot air balloon.

Believing that connections are critically important, Burns linked his classroom through Skype to students in Vermont who were reading the same story. The two classes were able to video-chat and debate issues from the book and gain outside perspectives on a classic piece of children's literature.

Burns also noticed that his students were limited in the real life experiences that help build the background knowledge that is crucial to their understanding.

"To aid this, I hired a man to bring a real life hot air balloon to our school," he said. "Through his discussion and by inflating the balloon on the playground, my students were able to make better connections to one of the crucial elements in our novel."

Burns' desire to connect with students is matched by his desire to make a positive impact on their lives.

"If I were to talk to my students 15 years from now, they won't say they remember each and every grammar skill they learned in my classroom, but they will be able to talk about the unique lessons I presented to them," he said. "It is the responsibility of an accomplished teacher to evolve and foster these types of learning styles that all students need to succeed."

Jennifer Foil

Foil teaches social studies at Holcomb Bridge Middle School in Alpharetta. She unwittingly found herself inspired by her school's motto, "Excellence: Whatever It Takes."

"When I first began teaching here, I didn't give the motto too much thought," she said. "Yet, as the months flew by, I found myself continually going back to that motto, not just with my students, but with myself. What did that mean to me?"

Foil said that it was by looking at her students and understanding their individual, specialized learning needs that she realized how to achieve excellence.

She signed up for professional development workshops, including a Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) program for teaching ESOL students, and sought any opportunity that might provide additional knowledge and experience in teaching her diverse students.

Foil found that while the extra skill sessions helped her reach her struggling students, they also helped her become a more effective teacher in general.

"From my teaching, I have realized that although students come to my classroom with diverse needs and past experiences, the key is to see each child as an individual who has the potential to learn and love it," she said. "Rural, urban, white, Hispanic, ESOL, special needs, rich, divorced family, happy and healthy . . . the root of why I teach is to find 'the beauty' in each child regardless of their background and to help them discover and develop it as well."

As time went on, Foil discovered what excellence means to her.

"I see excellence as having a classroom where all students are engaged and loving to learn," she said. "I see excellence as a classroom that students want to be in and feel safe. I see excellence as increasing student achievement."

People, Schools