Two local teachers were honored last week with the Licking County Foundation Leaders for Learning Award.
Jeanne Burke, a fourth-grade teacher at Licking Heights South Elementary School, and Jennifer Westbrook, a second-grade teacher at Etna Elementary School, were among 14 teachers Licking County Foundation representatives surprised in their classrooms.
Each teacher was presented an art-glass apple symbolizing the knowledge and inspiration they impart to their students and the community's appreciation for their efforts.
Burke was selected to receive the award because she is a model of good teaching, according to a press release from the Licking County Foundation.
"She is a caring and compassionate teacher, and has built a positive rapport with her students and their families," the foundation release said. "She goes above and beyond the school day to reflect on the lessons she has taught. She has the ability to adjust lessons as needed and will use assessment information to re-teach or extend activities for her students.
"Burke is reflective and thoughtful in her teaching and ensures that all students in her classroom grow academically and emotionally."
Burke said she was surprised by the visit to her classroom April 8.
"I had no idea," Burke said. "I thought I was going to hear a guest speaker about weather."
She was, of course, very pleasantly surprised to learn otherwise.
Burke said she strives to be approachable to students and to include parents and grandparents in students' coursework, particularly with writing projects.
She said while she's honored to win the award, she wishes the award could have also included her teaching teammates Monica Jordan, Holley Holloway and Phil Kehn. Burke said they've worked together for roughly seven years.
"We love being in our team," she said.
Westbrook was selected to receive the award because she is a master teacher, according to the release from the foundation.
"Her classroom is very inviting physically as well as emotionally, which invites children to be highly engaged in their learning," the release said. "She presents innovative, well-structured lessons that reflect a range of student learner needs. Westbrook makes clear and coherent connections with students' prior knowledge and future learning -- both explicitly to students and within the lesson.
"She is also a leader for her grade-level team, the building in PBS initiatives, the district as an involved member of the professional development committee and serves as a mentor teacher for entry-year teachers."
Westbrook called the honor a "complete surprise" and "unexpected," as she thanked her school principal, foundation members and expressed her appreciation to students and parents.
She said she goes out of her way to make her classroom as inviting and conducive to learning as possible. She said she loves beaches and has created a fun environment in her second-grade classroom reminiscent of the sun and surf.
Westbrook said she also was surprised to learn that the rest of her grade-level team considers her the leader, though she said she does tend to organize team meetings.
"I don't think I've been called that before," she said. "That's an unofficial title."
According to the release, the foundation created the Leaders for Learning Award in 1993 to honor public school teachers who exemplify excellence in their fields.
Each year, a teacher from each school district in Licking County is selected by his or her principals and superintendents for their belief that all students can and want to learn; for their desire to make a significant difference in students' lives; for their commitment to professional development; and for their outstanding classroom skills and leadership.
Leaders for Learning Award recipients can apply annually for grants of up to $500 to further their professional development or purchase materials for their classrooms.
The award is supported by the Lindorf-Warner Memorial Donor Advised Fund of the Licking County Foundation.