Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, M.S. SpEd
The ABC2-MECU “Teachers Are Heroes Award” seeks to honor one Maryland school teacher a month who goes well beyond assigned duties to better the lives of the students they teach. Shawnda Tyler is the latest recipient of this prestigious distinction due to her creativity, patience, and perseverance. Despite spending 6 hours a day, 5 days per week with 20 energetic children, Tyler has a perfect attendance record and has never skipped a day of work in her 15 year career. She was nominated by one of her student’s parents, Akido Goppy, who wanted to show appreciation for the incredible amount of dedication exhibited by her child’s teacher.
A conventional Pre-K schedule focuses heavily on academics, which can be a problem since it’s boring to most young children who would rather be playing with toys and their friends. Tyler understands that young students have short attention spans and that it takes a great deal of effort to create an engaging preschool environment.
She feels that play time must be a part of the curriculum because that’s how kids learn. Tyler uses tools like Leo the Lion to enhance the learning experience. Leo, a plush toy, shows preschoolers how to spell and sound out words. This approach ensures that her students won’t feel pressured by a rigid and demanding schedule. It also makes reading fun, so they won’t associate learning with boredom or stress.
Tyler believes that her students enter the program as blank slates since they don’t know any letters, nor the sounds associated with them. She admits it’s rewarding to watch their evolution to the point where they can eventually read for themselves. She also believes that the foundation for an accomplished academic life is set in preschool and feels it’s her duty to instill a passion for learning since once that flame is lit, it will burn bright throughout her student’s lives.