FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) A Southwest Allen County Schools teacher has been named Indiana Teacher of the Year, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz announced Monday.
Jean Russell, a literacy specialist at Haverhill Elementary School, is a 25-year veteran teacher. She has taught at the district for 21 years.
“As a literacy specialist, Jean uses her unique position to provide students and educators with innovative teaching and learning opportunities,” said Ritz. “As a teacher leader, Russell supports student literacy by creating a culture of readers both in and outside the classroom. Her commitment to student-centered learning and family engagement is why I am excited to announce that Jean Russell is Indiana’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.”
Russell said she was “grateful” for the honor and for the opportunity to represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
“It’s humbling to be the one doing it, but I feel like my heart and my passion for education, for kids, and for teachers will shine through so that the world will know education is where it’s at,” said Russell.
Russell’s role calls for her to provides on-going professional reading and writing development to the Haverhill staff, the district said. In that role, district officials said she has helped create a community of readers, “where reading spills into the community through parents, students, teachers and community members.” Russell also designs trainings, models in classrooms and provides resources for teachers throughout the district.
Southwest Allen County Schools Superintendent Dr. Philip G. Downs said Russell is a stand-out example of the type of educators the district employs.
“We could not be more proud of Mrs. Russell, and the state couldn’t have selected a better representative of education in Indiana,” said Downs. “Mrs. Russell does amazing things for girls and boys each and every day and is a great example of the kind of dedicated teachers we have in Southwest Allen County Schools.”
Haverhill Elementary Principal Jeanine Kleber praised Russell.
“Her ability to connect with students and staff is truly amazing,” said Kleber. “She has a real passion, true commitment and an irresistible zeal for life that has inspired so many of our teachers and young readers.”
This isn’t the first time Russell’s skills have been honored.
She is the reining Southwest Allen County and Haverhill teacher of the year, and the 1997 Whispering Meadows Teacher of the Year. Russell also was awarded the Southwest Allen County Schools Education Foundation Award.
A graduate of the University of Illinois, where she earned a B.A. in Elementary Education, Russell also holds a M.A. in Elementary Education from IPFW. Russell was a classroom educator for 21-years before becoming a literacy specialist.