Emily Sweeney

The Oakridge School

What she teaches: Kindergarten

How long she’s taught: Five years

Education: Bachelor's in early childhood education and master of education in special education, TCU

Why she teaches: I truly believe I have the best job in the world. I get the privilege of equipping my five and 6-year-old students to engage in an authentic love for learning that will last their lifetime. I have such a passion for showing my students that learning and achieving their goals can be creative, fun, and meaningful. I get to help construct their educational foundation, upon which they will build every year after kindergarten to become life-long learners. My favorite part of my job is two-fold. First, I get to teach children how to read and develop a true love for reading and literature. There is nothing more magical than watching a child's mind evolve and develop in such a pivotal way over the course of the year. I want children to learn that reading will take them anywhere they want to go and truly find joy in the beauty of literature. I like to use silly voices when reading to engage them in the story and instill that desire to know what happens next. To see a child come into your class simply knowing their letters and to help them to build upon that so that they are eagerly reading books by the end of the year is a beautiful, magical thing.  Secondly, I love teaching because I have the unique opportunity to teach my students every day that they are valuable, loved, and gifted in incredibly unique ways. I get to help young children build a positive self-concept of themselves that allows them to take risks, set goals, and  really believe in their capabilities. Each of the children that walk into my classroom has such special gifts they give to the world. I love helping them discover what those gifts are and cultivating a safe environment where they can truly feel and know their value and worth. And by the end of year, I have always learned from them just as much if not more than they have learned from me.

How she connects with students: I believe that the best way to connect with students is to truly form an authentic relationship with them. I believe in treating my friends with respect and truly valuing the things they have to say.  I have found that my friends will lean in and listen to the academic material I present them if they know that their teacher cares deeply for them, believes in them, and will do whatever it takes to help them succeed. I believe in being their biggest cheerleader. In my experience, when I engage them at an emotional level, the rest is easily accomplished.

Why she’s a Top Teacher: ”She makes learning fun for the children, and they are so bonded with her. She celebrates their accomplishments, and when they struggle, she somehow makes them feel that the struggle is normal, for lack of a better term, so they don't feel that the struggle is bad. And she has special routines she adds to events, like having a little reusable cake and candles to celebrate each birthday, reading books using different voices.” – Parent, in nominating Sweeney