Teacher of the Year, ESP of the Year
Teacher Of the Year
Maryland teacher motivates students and earns White House praise.
Her 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.
ESP of the Year
In one Kentucky school, a custodial supervisor goes above and beyond (and up the walls).
“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.