Honoring Heroes of the Past, Present, & Future

As my first guest blogger, Ms. Stefanie Ralph, originally wrote the following blog at the end of October, during the infamous Hurricane Sandy.  I asked Stef to simply share her thoughts on the honor of being teacher of the year as an agriscience teacher. Because of several other themes and events going in November, I was planning to post this around the week of Dec. 10 which is when another terrible event with the name “Sandy” took place in Newtown, CT at Sandy Hook Elementary. I couldn’t even watch tv all weekend, as my stomach and heart ached for those little kids and educators who were victims that day. I’m sure you felt the same way.

There are many lessons learned from that day, even in our own state, as I’ve noticed legislators have begun to pay attention and may propose related legislation to improve safety in DE schools.  But hopefully everyone just realized that educators play such a significant part in the upbringing of our future generation. Many teachers sacrifice so much to give students an opportunity to learn. Stefanie is one of those teachers. But too often, many teachers are the unsung heroes. So, I dedicate this post to all teachers and the memory of those lost on Dec. 14, 2012.

Ms. Stefanie Ralph, Agriscience Teacher and 2012 Smyrna School District Teacher of the Year

Ms. Stefanie Ralph, Agriscience Teacher and 2012 Smyrna School District Teacher of the Year

Biography: Stefanie is the 2012 Teacher of the Year for Smyrna School District, as an Agriscience teacher for Smyrna Middle School. I was so happy to see her in the running for the overall DE Teacher of the Year not only because I know her personally but because I’m so proud to see Agriscience represented among 19 top-notch candidates. Stefanie went to Lake Forest High School and was a respected student, field hockey player and FFA officer. She later went to University of Delaware and majored in ag education. Stefanie is also a familiar face at the DE State Fair and loved to show goats. You can now find her in the sheep barn, ag commodities building, or the FFA building. Did I mention she was one of my first students when I taught ag Lake Forest? I’ll skip to the next part…..Although Stef did not win the overall DE Teacher of the Year Award, she represented her district and ag well. I’m sure she’s looking forward to 2013 as she will no longer be a bachelorette! Good luck and thank you for teaching ag to our future generation! Please also see this great article on Stef by UD College of Ag & Natural Resources and a nice Q&A format from the Smyrna-Clayton Sun Times 

By Stefanie Ralph:

It’s an incredible honor to be selected as Smyrna School District Teacher of the Year.  Being chosen as the District Teacher of the Year is unquestionably the most extraordinary honor of my career, and I wish to express my gratitude.  I think, at some point, every teacher begins to question if they’re doing a good job, especially since the work often goes unrecognized. Being selected restores my confidence as a teacher, and it’s encouraging to know that my colleagues believe that I’m doing a good job. The entire faculty at Smyrna is highly qualified and all go above and beyond the call of duty; so I’m truly ecstatic I was even nominated. I’m deeply humbled and pleased to receive this honor. Teaching is a profession that serves all aspects of a community and I’m appreciative of all that public education has given me over the years, and I’m honored to have this opportunity to serve others in the same way.  When the district called my name, I was in true disbelief and did not ever imagine that my name would be called.  Again, I am very thankful for the district believing in me and recognizing my passion for teaching and serving the community.

Teaching is my passion and I have been fortunate to have been given this opportunity to engage in what I love doing for 5 years.   Becoming a teacher fulfilled my lifelong goal to educate, promote awareness, and share my compassion of the importance of agriculture to those students who are unaware of the impact it plays on their everyday lives. My greatest contributions and success as an educator is the ability to effectively communicate with my students and my commitment to ensuring student interest in agriculture.  I have been challenged to develop ways to relate and inspire my students who come from various backgrounds and life circumstances.  I reinforce to my students that dependence on agriculture knows no boundaries. Urban and rural, wealthy and poor, white-collar or blue-collar, young and old, developed nation or developing nation, any culture, any race . . . no matter how society is classified, agriculture is the lifeline that supports them all.  Agriculture provides all of our food, clothing, and shelter.  Throughout my course, students ultimately learn that a healthy agricultural system is vital to everyone’s daily life and at the conclusion of my course, students are able to answer the age-old question, “where would you be without agriculture?” Can you guess what the answer is….Naked and hungry of course!  Students also learn that chocolate milk does not come from brown cows, their food does not come from a grocery store, and FFA does not stand for Future Farmers of America. As a middle school Agriscience educator, teaching ceases to amaze me.  I tell my students often they are the ones who drive me to continue in the educational field and their spunky-ness keeps me going.  I empower my students to become contributing, successful citizens in today’s society all while they are actually empowering me to enhance my teaching strategies and to adapt to changes to become a role model in the classroom.

I’m so privileged to teach and while I’m delighted to accept this recognition, it is my students who deserve recognition.  I have been fortunate to educate some of the best students and witnessed former 7th graders blossom and bloom into leaders in the school and community who are beginning a new chapter in their book, graduating high school and attending college. As an educator who has kept in contact with former students, this is an amazing feeling and sense of accomplishment.  So, I share this honor with them, for without them, none of what I do would be possible.

Overall, teaching has good years and costly years.  There are times that teaching is so hard and success seldom, teachers find themselves hanging on by a thread.  Attached to that thread are students who just maybe you will reach out to and make a difference.  Those are the students who keep you motivated and that inspire you to continue in the educational field. Some of us continue in this profession because we have a heart for young people and a belief that we can impact the world, one child at a time; others come into this profession and find that children impact us in much of the same way.   No matter how long you have been teaching, everyone in this profession became a teacher for the same reason as did I, to make a difference in a child’s life.

You can reach Stefanie at stefanie.ralph@smyrna.k12.de.us or on Facebook.

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