Teacher of the Year Ann Hunter will be returning to Forestville Elementary school in Great Falls next year. Hunter taught at Forestville during her first year of teaching but has been an educator at Clearview Elementary in Herndon the past year.
Hunter received her award through Phi Delta Kappa, the honors association for teachers in Northern Virginia, last week. “What’s really amazing is that this is only her second year teaching. To get this kind of award so early in her career is amazing to me,” said Lynne Roots at The Village Green Day School in Great Falls. Roots has had the opportunity to work with and support Hunter directly through Hunter’s involvement at The Village Green Day School, where Hunter’s mother is also a teacher. Hunter had helped out at the school before getting certified as a teacher.
During the nomination process, parents, students and administrators wrote letters about Hunter and her teaching style to the Awards Committee. One of her students, Colin Curtis wrote, “If I told you all the good things about Miss Hunter, it would take a week. If I told you the bad things, it would take a second.” Another student, Alice Mark, stated, “I think Miss Hunter is my favorite teacher because she’s funny, kind and gives us a good influence on learning.”
Hunter prides herself on being a hands-on educator who actively participates in her students’ lives both in and out of school. “I’ve been to many of their houses, I play sports with them, and I’ll cook dinner for the kids when their parents are sick in the hospital,” said Hunter. “The parents know, and the kids definitely know, that I love them. That’s important,” said Hunter.
Her students’ parents have found Hunter to be approachable and to be aggressive in engaging them in the daily lives of their children. “I e-mail the parents every day so they know what’s going on. You ask kids, and they’ll say nothing much happened. So I use the e-mails to let them [the parents] know what’s going on and what we are doing each day,” said Hunter.
Aileen Natrella, the parent of one of Hunter’s students, said, “Early in the year I was impressed by Miss Hunter’s sheer energy. Her daily e-mails on class activities, her knowledge of each child’s strengths and weaknesses, and her enthusiasm are remarkable.”
CLEARVIEW’S PRINCIPAL ELAINE WELLENER, who spoke at the awards ceremony and addressed how much the school would miss Hunter next year, said, “If I could have one of my fondest wishes granted, I would wish that every child could experience the gift of having Ann Hunter as their teacher.”
Hunter’s creativity has set her apart from her peers and played a role in her receiving the Teacher of the Year award. “What I did this year that the parents really liked was I pretested [students] on everything. If they already knew it, they got to do something else while I taught the other kids,” said Hunter. One example of this was the subject of Rome. Students who knew a good deal about the city and its history spent time making a Coliseum out of sugar cubes, while their classmates received more traditional instruction from Hunter.
Parent Robin Highberg wrote, “Ann applied a wonderful combination of the newest research and tried-and-true technologies in her classroom. She is able to diversify her lessons to meet the needs of the various levels of her students in her Gifted and Talented class, and she does it in a seamless fashion.”
To engage all her students, Hunter rarely sits at her desk. “My chair is there for decoration only. I’m moving around constantly. It’s one of the promises I make to my parents at the beginning of the year. They can ask their kids if I ever sat down, and they will say no,” said Hunter.
“FIRST AND FOREMOST in my teaching is self-esteem. If you boost up their confidence, it makes a world of difference. I find what they are good at,” said Hunter.
Hunter said she is sad to say goodbye to the students at Clearview but is looking forward to coming home to Great Falls. “I didn’t want to leave in the first place, but they downsized so I had to move on.” Hunter said, “Forestville is home to me. I went here, some of my teachers are still here. And I want to work with [new principal] Matt Harris.
“What I’m looking forward to here is that there are always some kids who don’t want to go to school. I’m looking forward to that challenge,” said Hunter.
One of the ways Hunter is able to win over her students is by getting down on their level. “I watch ‘Nickelodeon.’ My brother used to tease me about that, but when they are talking about something, I know what they’re talking about,” said Hunter.
“Just being around children, you learn so much about them and can get down on their level. I see the world through the eyes of a third-grader,” Hunter said.
Hunter may have to go up a level or two, since she will be teaching fifth-graders at Forestville next year.