Stephanie Padden is the Salk Teacher of the Year for 2019-2020, and it’s not her first time to earn this honor. This is Stephanie’s 40th year in the classroom, and her ninth teaching English language arts at Salk.
“[My favorite part is] seeing the kids grow, especially my kids that don’t like to read and they find something that just consumes them,” she said.
She said is important that kids are able to get their hands on physical books.
“They can hold it. They can get in the bean bags, and they can share thoughts. It’s more personable,” she said.
Stephanie loves to read. It’s a passion that was encouraged by her seventh grade ELA teacher, and one she now passes on to her own students.
“I love The Watsons Go to Birmingham. I love teaching my kids and reading Charlotte’s Web. I love Indian in the Cupboard. I love old-school books. I love the Prince and Me,” she said. “One of my personal favorites is Gone with the Wind.”
Stephanie said she is always looking for new ways to reach students and is grateful that Principal Traci Thomas allows her and her fellow teachers to think outside the box.
“I never became a teacher to be a robot or read a script. I became a teacher to get to the kids,” she said. “We take vocabulary drills where we do the vocab cards and do races. We do activities where we’ll actually move cards around to do the sequence of the story or we move around the room to do it together.”
She said the hands-on learning helps her students understand the content easier.
“[I love] watching them grow, watching them be excited, especially how much they’ve grown from the beginning to the end,” she said. “I had a boy who was floundering all year long, and now he’s just a star student. It just makes my heart grow when they find their footing and you know you had a part in it.”
Stephanie said her favorite memories of teaching are the kids that come back to see her.
“I get graduation announcements. One of my students last year published a book and came [to see me]. Just knowing that I had them [in my class] and all the things that they are doing [now]. One of my students is the basketball coach at Memorial that’s won the state championship the last couple years. I love seeing where they are, what they can do, and when they come back,” she said.
With a few more years until retirement, Stephanie said she hopes to finish out her career at Salk. She said she loves the camaraderie she has with her Salk family.
“[They] want what’s best for the kids and do what’s best for the kids to motivate them,” she said.