• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Teacher of the Year: Helping her students become confident learners

SHERRI PING shares a smile with second-grader Molly Evans at Southside Elementary. "Listening is a big deal - listening to what they have to say," says Ping. Colt Shryock is also pictured. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Having grown up in Woodford County, Sherri Ping describes being a teacher at Southside Elementary as an opportunity to give back to the community. Southside's Teacher of the Year says her primary teachers at Huntertown Elementary had the biggest influence on her becoming a teacher and wanting to make a difference. They taught her to embrace the value of an education and gave her a love for learning. Ping now accepts the challenges of helping her students become confident learners. She knows their confidence will lead to success in elementary school and beyond. "Especially in primary (grades)," says Ping, "we are building their whole outlook on education. So we've got to make sure they love it. And we've got to make sure we find their strengths and teach to their strengths, and help them ... (so) their weaknesses become their strengths." Ping returned to second grade this school year - where she began her career at Southside Elementary - after spending three years in first grade. In addition to being a classroom teacher, Ping was a reading recovery teacher at Southside Elementary for three years. Teaching students how to "attack words" and become better readers, while working with them one-on-one and in small groups, made her a better classroom teacher, she says. Ping continues to use small, ability-based group instruction and other reading recovery strategies, and describes the training she received as "wonderful." "I miss (being in that role) because I was able to just focus on reading the whole time," explains Ping. "But I missed the classroom as well because I missed having those relationships with all of the kids." She likes being connected to a classroom community and working with a team of teachers. "I'm happy to be back in the classroom," says Ping, who came to Southside Elementary in 2007-08, after spending four years at Woodford Christian as a first- and second-grade teacher. Ping says she strives to set her students up for success by encouraging all of them to participate. "And let them know that what they have to say is important just like anybody else in the classroom," she says. Keeping students actively engaged - no matter the subject - gives them ownership in what they're learning. And knowing they're excited to learn "feeds me," says Ping. She makes time - when possible - to cheer on her students outside of the classroom and also takes time to listen to what they have to say so they know she cares. "That is such a game-changer," says Ping, who lives in Woodford County with her husband of 20 years, Shon. They have three sons, Chandler, Logan and Ryland, but she describes Southside's faculty and staff as her second family. (This is the fourth in a series of seven feature stories about Woodford County Public Schools' 2016-17 Teachers of the Year.)

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