CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Raleigh County elementary school teacher is the 2019 West Virginia Teacher of the Year.

The West Virginia Department of Education announced Jada Reeves as this year’s honoree during a gala Wednesday in Charleston.

Reeves teaches fifth grade at Bradley Elementary School in Mt. Hope, and serves on multiple school committees as well as volunteers in local youth sports.

“I was really shocked,” Reeves said after winning the award. “I really didn’t think that I was going to get it. I just had no idea. It could have gone either way. I’m at a loss for words.”

Reeves is an alumna of Concord University and Marshall University. She said she still remembers being one of a few students in her class who wanted to stay in West Virginia after graduation to teach.

“My family’s here. This is where I grew up. My heart it here,” she said. “I’m a country girl at heart, and I ain’t leaving.”

During a speech before the County Teachers of the Year, Reeves said her central purpose as an educator is to connect with students and foster learning through building relationships.

“If the kids don’t know that you love them, they’re not going to do well for you,” she said. “I had a little boy bring in a hermit crab last week, and that was the best thing in the world. It had nothing to do with academics, but we talked about where he got it from.

“They know that I’m there and they see that I’m there for them. I see them as a person rather than a kid in my class.”

Reeves was one of five finalists for the position. She will represent West Virginia in the National Teacher of the Year program.

As this year’s winner, Reeves will receive a car from Toyota to use at engagements, a classroom technology package from SMART Technologies, and gifts from Highmark West Virginia ($5,000), The Horace Mann Companies ($5,000) and WesBanco ($5,000). Each County Teacher of the Year received a $300 grant from the West Virginia Lottery, a $500 Visa gift card from Coca-Cola (with Reeves receiving a $1,000 gift card) and a glass suncatcher from Blenko.

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