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Teacher of the Year, ESP of the Year

Teacher Of the Year

Maryland teacher motivates students and earns White House praise.

2006 Teacher of the YearHer daycare teacher and summers spent working at a children’s camp inspired Kimberly Oliver to become an educator. She converted that early inspiration into a career so noteworthy that the 28-year-old earned the 2006 National Teacher of the Year title. President George W. Bush honored Oliver at a White House ceremony this past spring.

Oliver says she entered teaching to “motivate and inspire the neediest students, whom many have written off just because of the circumstances they were born into.” Focusing on individualized education, instilling a love of reading, and tailoring lessons and projects for individual students helped the kindergarten teacher better her school and community.

In her six years at Maryland’s Broad Acres Elementary School, Oliver helped build consistency in curriculum, instruction, and assessment. The once-struggling school met or exceeded No Child Left Behind requirements for the last three years.

To promote literacy, Oliver helps sponsor “Books and Supper Night,” a family event held in the library four times a year. Working with colleagues, she wrote and received grants for electronic learning systems, tape players, and books in English and Spanish. She even taught one student’s parents English.

Any Given Saturday

A Tacoma, Washington, high school teacher keeps his eye on the ball as an NFL draft expert.

A Tacoma, Washington, high school teacher keeps his eye on the ball as an NFL draft expert.As you read this, Rob Rang is either prepping for or recovering from a Saturday spent watching just about every college football game, plus tapes of the ones he missed the previous weekend. He’s a nationally known talent scout, of sorts, whose picks and pans on and in USA Today are parsed by pro team officials, agents, and football fans alike.

What those folks may not know is that Rang, 30, is a full-time English teacher at Mount Tahoma High School (of which he is a proud graduate). But his students are very aware of his side gig. “Kids who may not be reachable in traditional ways, I can reach with the football,” Rang says.

What began as a hobby six years ago grew into a high-profile professional side job. “I used to read USA Today, and now I look in there and see my own picture,” Rang says. “I’ve had offers to be an NFL scout, but I just want to be a teacher—to make that my top priority.”


ESP of the Year

In one Kentucky school, a custodial supervisor goes above and beyond (and up the walls).

2006 ESP of the Year“We Succeed, No Exceptions and No Excuses.” No one embodies the motto of South Heights Elementary School in Henderson, Kentucky, more than Nancy Toombs. Named NEA’s 2006 Education Support Professional of the Year, Toombs is a tireless worker in the school and community.

Whether it’s scarecrows or snowmen, staff and students know the painted murals that brighten South Heights come courtesy of Toombs. Her imagination is evident also at the Hard Work Café, a biweekly reward for successful students. She coordinates a tempting Café menu and activities, while transforming the gym into a jungle, the circus, or the sea floor.

Active and respected, Toombs is a commanding force at school board meetings, enhancing the ESP image with an educated voice on issues such as health care and school funding. She is also a volunteer firefighter and member of Habitat for Humanity, for which she organized a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Yet Toombs remains humble about her new title. “It shocked me at first because there’s so many good [ESPs] out there,” she says.


Mrs. Henderson Presents...Better Health

A California elementary school teacher coordinates a free clinic for the disenfranchised.

Anne Henderson teaches language arts and math at Pueblo Elementary in Pomona, California, but she is something of a health care advocate, too. For more than a decade, she’s helped coordinate a local free health clinic, setting up school locations, assisting medical staff, coordinating meals, and publicizing its work.

Created 12 years ago to offer immigrants and the poor better access to health care, the clinic is staffed by volunteers and physicians from an area hospital, who supervise medical students from a nearby university.

It’s an agile facility that rotates among eight different elementary schools, offering physicals, prenatal care, baby checkups, medical counseling, and preventive care to those who might not otherwise get it. “Everyone benefits,” says Henderson. “Medical students get the hands-on experience, citizens get access to medical care, and I feel gratified by giving back to the community.” 

Says Kristen Setliff, a clinic doctor, “If it weren’t for her...our job wouldn’t be so easy.”


Photo Credits: Ron Sachs/Consolidated; Scott Eklund; Mike Lawrence; Bob Riha Jr.

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