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WV Teacher of the Year turning pandemic challenges into opportunities

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia 2021 Teacher of the Year Erin Anderson says some people have told her they feel sorry for her because she’s received a top honor during a pandemic but she says she believes it’s the perfect time to represent teachers.

Anderson, a fifth grade teacher at Tennerton Elementary School in Upshur County, was in Charleston Monday to pick-up the Toyota Rav4 she’ll have use of during the next several months and cash prizes. She was named Teacher of the Year back in September.

Anderson said the honor came at a perfect time, in spite of the pandemic.

“It distracted me from what could have been the stresses of the classroom. I’ve taken my best step forward. I’ve had to stay positive,” she said.

Anderson said she likes to turn challenges into opportunities and the pandemic has created several.

“We’ve had opportunities to meet our (students’) families, where we may not have met them prior. We usually meet them at parent-teacher conference but I feel I really know my families this year,” Anderson said.

This is a time for teachers to shine, Anderson said.

“This is our chance. This is our chance to make our profession appealing and to put teaching in a good light,” she said. “If someone is thinking about going into education we want them to see the best of what it has to offer, rather than the worst. We need to guard what we are saying about our profession I feel.”

She said teachers have met the challenges of the pandemic head on and she’s proud to be able to represent them this year.

“Our teachers are doing amazing work,” Anderson said.

She said teachers know that won’t be able to cover as much ground as they would in a normal year. Anderson said she and other teachers are drilling down on what students need to be successful next school year.

“For me, teaching fifth grade, I’m really focusing on math and then next is science,” she said.

Anderson will do some traveling promoting teacher preparation and new teacher mentor programs. She plans to use her cash gifts on those trips and purchase items for her classroom.

In addition to the use of the Rav4 for a year, Anderson received $5,000 from Horace Mann Insurance, $5,000 from Highmark West Virginia and a $300 classroom grant from the West Virginia Lottery. County winners also received the $300 grant.

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