Indiana Teacher of the Year Anna Shults
Gray Eagle resident Anna Shults said she knew early on what she wanted to be when she grew up: a teacher. Today she is living her dream and doing it very well; she is not only in her tenth year as a third grade teacher at Fall Creek Elementary school but she has also been awarded the prestigious honor of being named Indiana Teacher of the Year for 2007. This HSE teacher was chosen from 47 educators from public and private schools. Now, she could receive national honors as she prepares to represent Indiana at a national competition in Washington, DC next spring.
After the surprise announcement at her school September 14th, she has received dozens of emails and students asking for autographs. “How surreal is all this? The whole thing is amazing!” the bubbly, dark-haired teacher said when I stopped in to see her. Mrs. Shults taught my daughter when she was in third grade three years ago. I learned more about Anna Shults that year than any teacher my children have ever had.
It was the stories she would tell; she talked to the kids about her personal life, her pets and her family. They became more than students, they were her friends. My daughter would then bring the stories home. I heard the story of how her family adopted a pet monkey from the zoo when she was a child. Then there was the dog that chewed her feet and was allergic to grass. I’ve even heard the story of her pet crawfish named Bruce. Why Bruce? She was a Bruce Springsteen fan, of course! I learned a lot about this third grade teacher after just a couple of months. So, when she earned the state’s top teaching honor, I wondered if there was a little magic in all those stories she told the kids over the years.
Shults says that is part of her joy of teaching, getting to know the students and their families. She says she tries to make that connection during the first few days of the school year. “I sit at my desk at the end of the day and ask myself what I learned about each child in my class that day. If I can’t answer that, I know I missed the beat,” she said. “The students have to know they are number one,”
What has she learned during her years as an educator? Shults said, “Each child learns at the own pace, and in their own way. You can’t get frustrated, they will learn in time.” She added what a wonderful honor it is to be named the state’s Teacher of the Year and it is also a reflection of the quality of teachers throughout Hamilton Southeastern Schools. In fact, the last two state finalists were from HSE and teach at Fall Creek Elementary. Kristie Cassidy of FCE was named a finalist in 2006.
Shults will also receive $1,000 from Indiana Farm Bureau and scholarship opportunities from Ball State, IU and Indiana State. This 31-year old educator will also get to meet with President Bush in the White House when she goes to Washington, DC for the national competition.
I’m sure her journey as Teacher of the Year will lead to many more wonderful stories she can tell in the classroom for years to come. I don’t know if it will top the crawfish named Bruce, but she will have some good stories to tell!
I know Shults will represent Indiana and Hamilton Southeastern Schools very well when she heads to Washington, DC next spring. Let’s all wish her much success in the classroom and in the national competition. We are here to cheer her on…good luck Anna Shults!