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Teacher of the Year at Vashon High School receives $500

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR)- Passion, Commitment and Love are just some of the values that Samantha exudes everyday in her classroom. I have never met a more dedicated and passionate teacher both in and outside of the classroom. Working at one the most at risk schools in the inner city is not an easy task. It requires creativity in the midst of lack of resources, peace in the midst of tragic murders amongst students, grit in the midst of constant change and love in the midst of an often-hopeless environment.

Within her 8 years at Vashon, Samantha has literally changed the lives of countless students. One of her biggest projects is the “Show Me Costa Rica” Project. Within this initiative she takes nearly 15 students on a trip to Costa Rica where they explore the culture, landscape and education system of the country. In many cases, these students may have never traveled outside of St. Louis, so this exposure is truly a catalyst for putting them on track towards excellence once back in the classroom.

When she is not fundraising for the trip, she is facilitating a youth leadership program that centers on building a more diverse, fair and social justice based St. Louis through the program Cultural Leadership.

Her role at Vashon is far more than just a teacher. Her students refer to her as Mom! I’ve watched her host trunk parties to collect products for her graduating seniors to take to college and in August, she drives many of them to campus herself and supports them throughout their four years. I’ve watched her comfort her students in at the funerals of their classmates, I’ve watched her train and coach first year teachers on how to effectively teach and support in a inner city public school, I’ve watched her spend her own cash buying coats and food for students in need. Although, her background and culture is different from the majority of her students, she has let nothing stop her or them in achieving success and dismantling barriers. Daily, she equips her students with the tools needed to survive and dream.

During her 8 years, she have saw many negative things happen at Vashon, but the optimism that she has, is what make her classroom a refuge. A place where her students who are homeless can feel at home, a place where her students with learning disabilities can accomplish the unimaginable, a place where her young men can escape the violent streets of North St. Louis, but most of all, a place where all students can feel loved!

This past November, she was recognized as the St. Louis Public School’s Special Education teacher of the year for her outstanding performance in the classroom. I am hoping that Tools for Teachers will help me recognize her achievements outside of the classroom as well.

Samantha received $500.00 from Weber Chevrolet (www.weberchevrolet.com).

If you would like to nominate a local teacher, click here (http://kplr11.com/2014/01/27/nominate-a-tools-for-teachers-candidate/)