On Tuesday night (Oct. 29), I had the opportunity to attend a banquet honoring the 19 District Teacher’s of the Year from the (you guessed it) 19 districts in Delaware. There were about 500 people in the room with many dignitaries such as Governor Markell and Lt. Gov. Matt Denn. Also included in the room was my wife, Andrea, who is the 2014 Caesar Rodney Teacher of the Year and one of the evening’s 19 candidates for State Teacher of the Year.
It was a fun evening. We got to bring our children along, as well as our good friend Laura and spend the evening together. This whole process has been fun for me because usually I am the person in our family that is more in the public spotlight. Through the process and especially on this evening- it was Andrea’s night. Even though Delaware is a small state, it is still pretty cool when the Lt. Governor sought out Andrea personally to invite her to be part of a special education task force. This was an evening where I happily took the title of “Andrea LaMotte’s Husband” or “Abbie and Chloe’s babysitter” while Andrea rubbed elbows with administrators from our district and some other friends.
After opening remarks, dinner, a really good video presentation, and more (and more) remarks- Governor Markell came to the podium to announce the State Teacher of the Year. I had my camera ready to snap a picture of the moment the Governor announced Andrea’s name- but it didn’t come. Another name was announced. For a brief second, I was disappointed. I wanted her to win. But then I smiled because I know how great of a teacher she is and how blessed I am (and Abbie and Chloe) to have her in our lives. While Andrea did not win the State Teacher of the Year- she is the Teacher of the Year in my book.
Here are a few reasons why:
- She Sees Things Others Don’t See: I think many teachers do this- but I’ve seen this so many times in Andrea. Andrea teaches students with disabilities at the John S. Charlton School in the Caesar Rodney School District. During her first two years teaching- she taught some of the lowest functioning students in the district. There were several times when Andrea would communicate to parents on what their students were able to do and the parents were in disbelief. So Andrea would take video of the children doing task their parents didn’t believe they could do. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Andrea talk about a student’s limitations (their dis-ability)- but her focus has always been on what they can do, and what she believes they will be able to do.
- She Expects Excellence: Andrea works with a population of students where excellence may not be the first thing one talks about. Andrea expects her students to do their best everyday- and honestly, I don’t think she is afraid to call her students on it. It’s been excited for me to watch her work with some of these students for several years- and having a few of them transition out of Charlton and back into the mainstream buildings and population. She works hard to bring out the best in each of her students. And honestly, she works hard to bring out the best in our family- though I am more of a challenge to her than her students!
- She Loves Going to Work: Again, she’s not the only one who loves to teach- but I know that she loves what she does. During this whole process, Andrea has had to be out of the classroom at meetings and other activities and the thing I hear the most is “I just want to get back to teaching my students.” She says this not because she doesn’t want to do the other things, but because she loves her students and she loves the relationship she has with them and her para-professionals. If half of the stories I hear are true, Andrea and her paras (Joe and Melanie) have way too much fun some days working together!
- This is her mission field: There was a time in Andrea’s life and in our relationship where we wrestled with where to serve God best. Ultimately, we ended up in the church. Andrea has always had a heart and a calling for ministry. When Andrea was in college, she spent six months working with the poorest of the poor in India where she encountered the dying and disposed of in Mother Theresa’s Home for the Dying and taught English in Nepal. She care for those who had been marginalized by society. Andrea’s work in her classroom is her mission field. Each day, she has the opportunity to “be Jesus” to her students and colleagues. Part of Andrea’s philosophy of teaching is including students with disabilities into the mainstream education process- taking the marginalized and including them in the greater community because we have so much that we can learn from each other. I am blessed to see the care and compassion, the love that Andrea has for her students, and how she reflects Jesus in her classroom.
I don’t think I could say enough how proud I am of Andrea, and I have told her that often since she knew she was her District Teacher of the Year. I am excited to see how God continues to use her to touch lives inside and outside of the classroom!