Two Anderson University graduates have received the 2009 Teacher of the Year award in their districts.
Janet (Short) Mora, a 1983 Anderson University grad and 26-year teaching veteran, was named Elementary Teacher of the Year in the McAllen (Texas) Independent School District, and Jonathan Kline, a 2007 AU grad, was named Teacher of the Year in the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township in Indianapolis.
Mora began her teaching career in Rock Valley, Iowa, in 1983, where she taught sixth grade. In 1985, she began her tenure at the Weslaco (Texas) ISD, where she taught kindergarten and first grade, and later served as a reading strategist until her move to the McAllen ISD, where she has served since 1999 as a first grade teacher at Milam Elementary School.
Mora has also served as a state and district trainer and consultant and as a content specialist for the Teach for America Corporation. She co-authored Milam's first grade International Baccalaureate curriculum and is active in mentoring beginning teachers throughout the Rio Grande Valley.
"I feel strongly that teachers serve not only their students, but also their fellow teachers," she says. "I try to find ways to mentor in my school, my district, and my region as often as I can. While you might be a beginning teacher, a struggling teacher, or an experienced teacher, amazingly, the greatest benefactor is always yourself. I always come out of the experience a better teacher."
Being nominated for and receiving the Teacher of the Year honor has provided Mora an opportunity to reflect on her years of experience in the classroom.
"It was rewarding to understand that after 20-plus years of teaching, the reasons why I became a teacher are still the same reasons why I remain in the classroom," she says. "I think I was influenced by my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Johnson, who refused to call us 'kids.' She wanted us to understand that we would not always be children, but were destined for bigger things."
Jonathan Kline does not have decades of experience behind him. Yet, just two years after graduating from AU as a social studies teaching major, he has earned the respect of his fellow teachers and the admiration of his students, receiving Teacher of the Year honors in his district.
Kline is currently teaching at the Lynhurst 7th and 8th Grade Center, one of two middle schools that feed into Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis.
"It is an honor to be selected to represent a great school," Kline says. "There are many great teachers in Wayne Township, and I feel privileged to represent them, my school, and the district."
Lynhurst Principal Dan Wilson notes that in his 15 years in the district, this is the first time the award has been given to a middle school teacher. "It's a challenge for someone from a middle school to make that achievement," he says, "but those of us who know Jon are not surprised by it. You can pick five minutes out of any day in his class, and you'll walk away with something that makes you say, 'Man, is that a great teacher!'"
Kline, a second-generation AU graduate, has long had a passion for working with youth, and he wanted to pursue a career where he could make a positive difference in the lives of young people, but it wasn't until midway through his AU experience that he made the decision to pursue a career in the classroom.
"During my junior year of college, I re-evaluated what I wanted to do with my life," he says. "Teaching was something I always loved to do. I know it sounds cliche, but I have always loved the moment when the lights come on in someone's mind. At the same time, I discovered an interest in history and politics. I really enjoyed these subjects through my own education, and I was excited with the challenge of making these subjects come alive for students."
"The School of Education gave me very personal attention throughout my schooling," he says. "I cannot even count the times I spoke to Dr. Diana Ross [dean of the SOE] and gained guidance from her in the direction I wanted to go."
And of the history and political science faculty, Kline says, "They were fantastic in changing the way I think about and approach history and politics. These classes were some of the most memorable moments for me in college."
Mora, too, carries fond memories of her years at Anderson University.
"I can never say enough about the education I received at Anderson," she says. "I was gifted with so many great experiences while I was there: caring professors who would give of their time, a sense of community, a great on-campus life, Tri-S trips, CPS, etc.
"Dr. Barbara Jones [AU professor emerita of education] was a profound influence when it came to developing my teaching philosophy," she continues. "I still hear her voice today telling us to find a new way, stretch the boundaries, do whatever is needed to help each child learn."
The Teacher of the Year Award is a highly prestigious honor, according to Ross, particularly in larger districts such as Kline's, which has 1,026 teachers and 15,696 students.
District-level Teacher of the Year recipients are interviewed for the state's Teacher of the Year award, says Ross. And winners at the state level compete for the National Teacher of the Year.
Anna Shults, a 1996 AU grad, was named Indiana Teacher of the Year in 2007.
According to Ross, it is difficult to know how many AU grads have received Teacher of the Year honors. Typically, the School of Education learns about these accomplishments directly from the alumni. For that reason, Ross encourages AU education grads to keep in touch with the School of Education, letting the school know of their personal and professional accomplishments.
Education grads may contact the SOE at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (765) 641-4402.
– Randy Dillinger serves as Web Content Editor and SEO Manager in the office of University Communications at Anderson University.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.