Debra Honn, third-grade teacher at Indian Village Elementary School, and Lisa Clegg, English Language Learners teacher at Northrop High School, have been named the 2020 Fort Wayne Community Schools Teachers of the Year.
Honn, the FWCS Elementary Teacher of the Year, has taught for 25 years, the past five at Indian Village. There, she revived the school’s annual science fair and started a robotics club.
“I am impressed each time I visit her classroom,” Indian Village Principal Kara Miller said. “The passion and energy she exudes to help her students learn and grow is contagious. Mrs. Honn tailors her classroom so that it is an engaging learning environment for each and every student.”
Honn said her focus in teaching is first getting to know her students and building a relationship with each of them.
“Knowing my students’ strengths, weaknesses, background and interests helps me to design learning experiences that are meaningful and measurable,” she said. “While there are many ways to reach a learner, it is my responsibility to understand which approach works with each child.”
Clegg, the FWCS Secondary Teacher of the Year, has taught for 8 years and has been at Northrop for 2 years.
“My philosophy of teaching can be summed up in a few short words: Love students. Teach all of them,” she said in her Teacher of the Year application.
In her classroom, building community is a key part of reaching her students, who come from 28 countries and speak more than 30 different languages. One way she brings them together is through food. She encourages students to share their food traditions, particularly those tied to holidays in their home countries.
“Breaking bread brings people together, and nowhere is that more important than in a multi-lingual, multi-cultural classroom,” Clegg said. “Everyone speaks the language of food.”
Northrop Principal Erica Almas said Clegg’s students have seen significant growth in learning English.
“When I think of the qualities of a Teacher of the Year candidate, an unwavering drive for student success is one of the first characteristics that comes to mind,” Almas said. “Lisa embodies this. Her dedication and can-do attitude will continue to have a positive impact on our students and staff.”
Candidates for Teacher of the Year are nominated by building principals with finalists chosen by a committee of administrators. The other elementary finalists this year were Angela Geren, second-grade teacher at Adams Elementary School, Meghan Rusk, fifth-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, and Ashley Toy, art teacher at Towles Intermediate School. Additional secondary finalists were Katherine Frisk, eighth-grade language arts/social studies teacher at Memorial Park Middle School, Julie Hadaway, business teacher at Wayne High School and Jennifer Slone, art teacher at South Side High School.
With nearly 30,000 students, Fort Wayne Community Schools is one of the largest school districts in Indiana. FWCS proudly allows families to choose any of its 50 schools through its successful school-choice program creating diversity in each school, including some with more than 75 languages spoken. FWCS offers seven magnet schools focusing on areas such as science and math, communication, fine arts or Montessori at the elementary and middle school level. In high school, students can choose from the prestigious International Baccalaureate program, Project Lead the Way or New Tech Academy as well as other rigorous academic and specialty training programs.