Bennett named 2012 Teacher of the Year at John M. Clayton Elementary School
First grade is a year of great strides, from starting the year sometimes not knowing how to tie your shoes and having to master the challenge of sitting still, to reading chapter books and writing short stories by spring. Allison Bennett, first-grade teacher at John M. Clayton Elementary School, and their Teacher of the Year for 2012, knows this well. She said first grade is really special in that way, and the students grow leaps and bounds.
“First grade is fun,” she said. “They come in little kindergarteners. Some of them haven’t been to school a whole day yet. And they end the year reading and writing. There is so much growth. Every day is different. I am excited to see what they teach me every day.”
This is Bennett’s second year teaching at John M. Clayton Elementary, formerly known as Frankford Elementary School. She taught second and third grades at Georgetown Elementary previously and was that school’s special education coordinator before transferring farther south. “I had been at Georgetown Elementary since 2003 and then, in 2010, I had a baby and the school moved here. Being from here, it worked out great.”
Originally from New Jersey, Bennett attended college in Virginia and was a restaurant manager there, which is what brought her to Delaware. After getting married, she decided to go back to school for teaching, because it had always been something she thought she would do.
“I always wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I had great teachers growing up, and my path just kind of led me in a different way through school. And then I got married and saw things differently. I got my desire back for teaching.”
After completing her bachelor’s degree in general studies at Wilmington University, Bennett got a master’s degree in elementary studies. She started her teaching career at the Outdoor Education Center at Ingram Pond near Millsboro, as a long-term substitute, before starting in Georgetown.
She said she was “stunned” to receive the 2012 Teacher of the Year nod after such a short time at John M. Clayton.
“It’s my second year,” she said. “And it was hard to leave Georgetown. It was my home. But the teachers here have welcomed me with open arms, and the assistant principal and principal are so supportive. It’s nice to be recognized after being here a short time.”
She explained that the teaching environment at the school is very collaborative and the teachers are very much a team, and the students have a real sense of community.
“We all have our classes but we work together, too,” she said.
Because Bennett is dually certified in special education, she has an “inclusion” classroom, which can be a challenge, with many different learning styles and speeds. She said that, with the help of her two paraprofessionals, they make it work.
“There is lots of differentiated instruction. We work in small groups, so we can really challenge the students who are ready to move on and so we can meet the needs of the others. We have very individualized lesson plans, and we get to know the kids as much as we can.”
The school also started implementing the rigorous Common Core standards this year, and Bennett said the students were quick to adjust.
“The expectations are more difficult this year, but they surprise me all the time.”
Quick to share her honor, Bennett explained that the Teacher of the Year judging process includes the teachers being watched while they are teaching and said her students did great — as always.
“They were everything I could have asked for. They used their vocab words… They shined like superstars. But they always do that. We have a lot of fun, but they work really hard.”