Julie Sheffield teaches students with disabilities or significantly behind in grade, and some come to her class feeling defeated. But Sheffield, teacher of the year at Bunnell Elementary School, makes sure they don’t go that way.
“Students in her class usually leave with a favorite teacher, warm memories, and an academic standing with (or much closer to) their peers.”
– CARI HANKERD, Vice Principal, Bunnell Elementary School
“They lack confidence and feel left out because of their struggles or disabilities,” she wrote in her application for Teacher of the Year. “…Others have been labeled as a lost cause, and that they are worthless. It breaks my heart, so I make it my mission to uplift them, help them find their superpowers and achieve their full potential . . . I refuse to be another person who abandons them, lets them down or someone who doesn’t make the effort to understand them.”
Sheffield has taught at Bunnell Elementary School for 14 years and worked with students with disabilities for six years.
Sheffield’s background as a high school cheerleader served her well, she wrote.
“These students need a champion, they need a cheerleader, someone to point out their abilities and the amazing things that make them so special,” she wrote. “I want to be that person, so I became an integral part of the High Support model driven by an amazing administration team.”
“Julie is one of those teachers you come across from time to time. She is popular with students, families and colleagues.”
— ROSEMARIE ALFANO, ESE staff specialist at Bunnell Elementary School
None of Sheffield’s pupils start the year at school level. But this last school year, 63% of them finished at school level.
“Ms. Sheffield’s data continues to show impressive growth, helping students close the gaps and catch up to their peers,” Cari Hankerd, Bunnell Elementary vice-principal, wrote in a letter supporting the school’s candidacy. Sheffield Teacher of the Year. “Students in her class usually leave with a favorite teacher, warm memories, and an academic standing with (or much closer to) their peers.”
Students in the Sheffield classroom feel safe to take intellectual risks and make mistakes to grow, Hankerd wrote.
“His enthusiasm for teaching is inspiring, his positivity is infectious, and his attentiveness and responsiveness to student data is meticulous,” Hankerd wrote.
The grandson of Rymfire Elementary deputy headmaster Abra Seay entered the Sheffield class in year three.
“Having him in Julie’s class was the best decision we’ve ever made,” she wrote in a letter of recommendation for Sheffield. His reading scores improved rapidly.
“His confidence also improved and he loved school for the first time!” Seay wrote.
Sheffield came up with a new approach to teaching phonics and word patterns, using “pop it” fidget toys and asking students to pop up the number of sounds they hear in a new word when Sheffield presents it to them. , wrote Rosemarie Alfano, ESE staffing specialist.
The process, she writes, keeps students engaged in the activity and makes it clear if they aren’t hearing the sounds.
Children then use magnetic letters to form the word, “building the letter-sound relationship,” Alfano wrote.
“Students adore Julie because she is kind, loving, fun and cares about them,” Alfano wrote. “Julie gets to know each student in her class as a whole person.”
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