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FUESD's Amy Schwenke named San Diego County Teacher of the Year

To be a truly great teacher, it's important for an individual to be passionate about children and their education. However, to be an exceptional teacher, additional elements of leadership, dedication and creativity must be incorporated into every part of the educational experience.

Amy Schwenke, a 12-year Fallbrook Union Elementary School District (FUESD) kindergarten teacher, has tirelessly put those elements into her teaching, and has recently been recognized for her hard work. Schwenke was honored as one of five San Diego County teachers at the 26th annual "Cox Presents: A Salute to Teachers" as a Teacher of the Year.

"It's been so surreal and amazing," said Schwenke. "I have been able to include my students in the process. During the application phase, I told my students they were the class of the year. This year's students were told that as well, so I got to spread that to two of my classes."

As one of Fallbrook Street School's kindergarten teachers, Schwenke nurtures a joy for learning and excellence within her students.

"I have been lucky to teach kindergarten at Fallbrook Street the whole time," said Schwenke. "I love that you can see so much growth in my students from the beginning of the school year to the end."

Schwenke also spends her summers teaching special education, which she feels has a tremendous impact on her traditional classroom practices.

"It helps me learn more about how to be a good teacher," she said. "I first started with a long-term sub position in Oceanside in a special education classroom for severely handicapped K to third graders. We had 11 boys, and I that's where I really learned to be a good teacher."

Schwenke believes that the most important element to teaching is making students believe in themselves and their abilities.

In addition, Schwenke's students are encouraged to set daily goals and actively work on them throughout the day, even though they are only in kindergarten.

"My students are not allowed to say 'I don't know,' or 'I can't'" said Schwenke. "I try to model this as well; when I'm drawing on the board, I'll say, 'I am not sure if I can do this, but I will try my best.' I want to give them the chance to rely on their own ability."

In March, Schwenke was surprised by FUESD administration and was awarded the title of district teacher of the year, and was encouraged to apply for the county honor.

A total of 43 teachers were nominated for the 2016-17 County Teacher of the Year honor. The finalists were selected based on student achievement, professional development and community involvement, teaching philosophy, knowledge of current issues in education, promotion and development of the teaching profession, accountability, and ability to serve as ambassadors of education.

Schwenke was told that she was named as one of 10 finalists, and was invited to a red carpet ceremony that was put on as a way to honor the candidates.

"It was unbelievable," said Schwenke. "It's great to be recognized, but at the same time you feel guilty because you see your fellow teachers working just as hard as you are. We are equally wonderful."

Schwenke feels that her award is representative of all the hard work performed by teachers at FUESD.

"It shows the great strides we are making as a district," she said.

The five teachers of the year will represent San Diego County in the California Teacher of the Year program.

"It's important to recognize the hard work teachers do," said Schwenke. "The media tends to focus on the negative aspects of education, but teachers work so hard. They want students to be successful, and take it personally."


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