Ten Top Teachers in Hampton Roads
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Top Teacher Overall
Amy D. Insley
Number of Votes: 3,570
School: York High School, York County
Years as an educator: 17
Special recognitions/awards: Michael Sullivan Distinguished Service Award, 2013, York High School; Top Teacher, Coastal Virginia Magazine, 2014 and 2015
Your favorite part about being a teacher? All of it! If I have to choose a highlight, I really love it when a theater student falls in love with the arts through experiencing a good performance, a good audience, a great show! It is an amazing thing to see a student transform from someone who is unsure and tentative into a confident performer and person.
The most important thing you have learned during your teaching career? Everyone comes to the classroom with their own set of needs. It is our job as educators to help meet those needs. I think all students come to school with the intention of learning something and a desire to do well. As teachers, we can really light that fire if we get to know them, build relationships and help them to be successful.
Technology in the classroom: Helpful or hindrance? Both! I find it very helpful in relating to students’ mode of learning. For example, I employ iPods and iPads into musical theater lessons, and I sometimes have the students create Twitter and Facebook “live feeds” for things like the Tony Awards broadcast. However, theater is such an art of human connection and relationships that I think we need to know when to put [devices] down!
What is the biggest challenge teachers are facing today? Validity of our profession. I really do not like the saying, “Those that can—do. Those that can’t—teach.” That is such a horrible saying and not at all true. No one can “do” anything if there hasn’t been a teacher to show them how. Teachers do and teach. I do not think anything could be more necessary or noble than following the call to do so.
At the end of the school year, what do you most want your students to leave your classroom knowing? That they can do anything they set out to do, and the skills learned in theater transcend performing. They can be applied anywhere!
From her nomination: Amy Insley singlehandedly changed my life. I had no direction. No confidence. No ambition. I was a lost soul. She saw something in me and brought it out. I had never thought about doing theater until I met her. She put me on stage, gave me a home and a real sense of belonging. —Meghan Witten, former student
School: Saint Mary Star of the Sea School, Hampton
Years as an educator: 4
Grades and subjects taught: Third grade
Your favorite part about being a teacher? Seeing the growth of each student I teach. During the early school months, these somewhat unfamiliar children are entrusted into my care. You don’t know much about them, but you know it’s your job to help them learn and grow throughout the year. By the last day of school, you look around and are amazed to see independent, self-sufficient young people. Witnessing their gradual transformation over nine months is truly remarkable and inspiring for me as their teacher.
The most important thing you have learned during your teaching career? Oftentimes, I look around my classroom and notice my students practicing acts of kindness and genuine love. These examples often remind me, as busy as life may be at times, that we too must stop to help one another. The greatest lessons in life can be observed by watching children model what we have instilled in them.
Technology in the classroom: Helpful or hindrance? Technology is very helpful in the elementary classroom. I know it can cause problems among older students, but ultimately I see that technology engages and excites young learners. Technology keeps students interested and focused, which is so crucial. In this digital age, students are growing up with these advancements, and it’s important that schools keep up with these inventions.
What is the biggest challenge teacher are facing today? The expectation of differentiated instruction for each student. Teachers are faced with the difficult task of teaching each learner at their own level, understanding that education is not a “one size fits all” answer. This requires extra time, effort and careful planning. In today’s world, differentiated instruction can be extremely hard when faced with school budgets, minimal needed materials and many required standardized tests, but the results are truly worthwhile.
At the end of the school year, what do you most want your students to leave your classroom knowing? I want them to know the greatest lessons I shared with them were not about science or math but that they are a magnificent gift to each person they come in contact with during their lives and that God has a special plan for each and every one of them.
From her nomination: “Her passion for education and for helping young children to learn is manifested in her attention to the students’ needs and researching new ways to help them learn and be successful in their education.” —Sister Mary John Slonkosky, Principal, Saint Mary Star of the Sea School
School: Cape Henry Collegiate, Virginia Beach
Years as an educator: 14
Grades and subjects taught: Sixth grade Earth Science. (Has taught science in grades Pre-K–12.)
Your favorite part about being a teacher? Getting the kids to understand the world around them. They just don’t understand how large the world is, and yet, really how small it is. I tell them there is only one ocean, but they say they learned there are five. Then I explain how everything is connected, and whatever happens here has an impact somewhere else.
What is the most important thing that you have learned during your teaching career? That there’s promise in all children. They are all great. They are all sweet. I love them all. That kids aren’t adults. They’re kids. You have to just accept everybody for who they are.
Technology in the classroom: Helpful or hindrance? A few years ago, I definitely would have said that technology in the classroom was helpful, and I still do feel that way on most days. I sometimes worry that a student may get sidetracked to game sites. They are kids. As with anything, allowing kids to be on a device during class requires constant supervision to make sure they are being appropriately taught and directed. Technology is only getting better, and we need to embrace it but at the same time make sure we show and teach kids what is important.
What is the biggest challenge teachers are facing today? My greatest challenge is probably technology. Not so much the technology itself but the amount of time it takes from a student’s life. I feel that kids are missing out on being outside, getting messy and using their minds at times. If something exciting is happening, instead of enjoying it and making memories, my students instantly want to pull out their phones to take a picture. I feel they miss the “whole” experience. Of course, they do have a digital memory, but I don’t believe it is the same.
At the end of the school year, what do you want your students to leave your classroom knowing? Maybe my favorite quote: “It’s the greatest mistake of all to do nothing because you can only do little.” That’s about the environment and helping out. We talk about that every day. Right now we’re learning about the Chesapeake Bay and what we can do to help it.
From her nomination: “Her passion, dedication and enthusiasm for educating her students in the science of sustainability is contagious. She lives, breathes and models science, sustainability and stewardship in her daily life and, most importantly, inspires her students to do the same.” —Amanda Hayes, colleague
School: Willard Model Elementary School, Norfolk
Years as an educator: 20
Grades and subjects taught: Elementary counselor for grades Pre-K–5
Special recognition/awards: One of Norfolk Public Schools’ Top 10 Teachers of the Year, 2015; Teacher of the Year, Willard Model Elementary, 2015; VFW (Veteran of Foreign Wars) Teacher of the Year, 2014
Your favorite part about being a teacher? I love working with the students, teachers, staff, parents and other school counselors. I like it when a student mentions to me, “Do you remember when you taught us about bullying? I still use those strategies.”
The most important thing you have learned during your teaching career? All students are different. What works for one student might not work for the next. In this line of work, you have to be flexible, creative and willing to give your all.
Technology in the classroom: Helpful or hindrance? I think technology in the classroom is helpful because it enhances the learning and teaching process, especially for students with visual and kinesthetic learning styles.
What is the biggest challenge teachers are facing today? Too much testing. This is not just a problem in Virginia but other states, as well.
At the end of the school year, what do you most want your students to leave your classroom knowing? I want students to leave the school year knowing that anything is possible with determination and hard work.
From her nomination: “She is enthusiastic and promotes college and career opportunities to our elementary-aged students, believing it is never too soon to promote higher education.” —Julie Honeycutt, principal, Willard Model Elementary School
Dr. Don Krudop
School: The Visual & Performing Arts Academy at Salem High School, Virginia Beach
Years as an educator: 41
Grades and subjects taught: Academy choirs and classes for grades 9–12: Vox Harmonia, Vox Concordia, Cantaré, Academy Choral Ensemble, Conducting & Score Study, Senior Vocal Seminar, and Senior Vocal Production Project
Special recognitions/awards: National Quarter Finalist, National Music Educator, Grammy Foundation; Music Educator of the Year, Virginia Music Educators Association; Teacher of the Year, Salem High School; Distinguished Alumnus Award, Outstanding Career Achievement, Shenandoah University
Your favorite part about being a teacher? This is an easy one ... my students. Their passion, talent, enthusiasm, curiosity, intelligence … the way they latch onto new concepts and new ideas so quickly, the way they rise to the challenges I give them. I love the “light bulb” moments—those times when a difficult concept suddenly becomes clear and they’re excited about it.
The most important thing you have learned during your teaching career? Never underestimate the capabilities and potential for success that is innate in young people. I have found that if I can determine a way to teach a concept or technique, my students are capable of mastering it.
Technology in the classroom: Helpful or hindrance? Both, depending upon the circumstances. It’s a great help to be able to quickly pull up performances by world-class artists, websites with great information and to have the opportunity to provide students with interactive options. On the challenging side, students must learn that there are times when it’s necessary to disconnect from the online world and focus on the authentic classroom environment. The constant feeling of needing to “be connected” distracts them from the immediacy of interaction, both with the teacher and with classmates.
What is the biggest challenge teachers are facing today? The continually-increasing loss of instructional time due to testing, unnecessary paperwork and other mandated minutiae is a critical concern. It’s difficult to teach the curriculum when students are pulled from class and daily instructional schedules are interrupted.
At the end of the school year, what do you most want your students to leave your classroom knowing? I hope each student leaves my classroom knowing that he/she is a better musician than they were in September, that an increased understanding of music has been instilled in their head and an ever-growing passion for singing has been embedded in his/her heart.
From his nomination: “Dr. Krudop is awesome. He is a great teacher who I still remember 20 years later! High school wouldn't have been the same without his class.” —Cheryl Rouse, former student