Smyrna’s Hall named Delaware Teacher of the Year

Sandra Hall makes her way to the podium after she was named as Delaware's Teacher of the Year at a banquet Tuesday night at Dover Downs.  She teaches fourth grade at North Smyrna Elementary School.  (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Sandra Hall makes her way to the podium after she was named as Delaware’s Teacher of the Year at a banquet Tuesday night at Dover Downs. She teaches fourth grade at North Smyrna Elementary School. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

DOVER – After eight years of teaching — seven as a fourth-grade teacher at North Smyrna Elementary School — Sandra Hall was crowned Delaware’s 2016 Teacher of the Year on Tuesday night.

“I will do my very best to serve and represent Delaware. We all come from different backgrounds, we work in different districts, we teach different content and we all have different stories but what we do share is the compassion we give everyday to our students,” Ms. Hall said at a banquet at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino during her acceptance speech before teachers of the year from each of the state’s 19 districts.

Acting Secretary of Education Steven Govonsky presenting Sandra Hall with a plaque after she was named as Delaware's Teacher of the Year at a banquet.

Acting Secretary of Education Steven Govonsky presenting Sandra Hall with a plaque after she was named as Delaware’s Teacher of the Year at a banquet.

For Ms. Hall, teaching was actually her third career, which she started at 44 years old. She called it a natural progression from her love of teaching her own children as a mother and teaching the children of others in Sunday school.

“While I never set out to be a teacher at a young age, my former teacher, my family, and my years of experience in business and the military have made me realize it’s my life’s purpose,” she said.

After almost a decade in education, Ms. Hall has seen the focus continually shift toward test scores and data extracted from students, but emphasized the importance of being mindful of each student’s individual background.

“We know (our students) too come from different backgrounds, different homes, different families and they also have different stories,” she said. “Some of our students may be just fine, some may be hungry, sad, scared, some have struggles outside school we can only imagine.

“We must take the time to know the children behind the data. They live, they breathe, they feel and they have a heartbeat. They come with a story a good teacher knows their story and uses it not just to make the data better but to

Delaware's 2014 Teacher of the Year Megan Szabo, from the Caesar Rodney School District, addresses the audience.

Delaware’s 2014 Teacher of the Year Megan Szabo, from the Caesar Rodney School District, addresses the audience.

make their stories better, too.”

As state Teacher of the Year, Ms. Hall will have more commitments outside the classroom such as trips and conferences where she will have the opportunity to meet teachers of the year from every state and territory. But, those additional responsibilities mean some time away from class.

“I’m in there for the kids. It’s always been about them and it’s always going to be about them,” she said. “So that will be the hardest part of this adventure — being away from the kids because I love being in the classroom.”

Aside from opportunities like meeting other teachers and mentors, Ms. Hall received a $5,000 bonus to be spent on improving her classroom. She plans on investing it in technology.

Her classroom currently has a set of 10 Chromebook laptops. She hopes to put some of the grant toward ensuring every student has a Chromebook to use in class.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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