Top teachers trade tactics County's Teacher of the Year meets Florida Teacher of the Year

Gwen Bittner / Citrus Chronicle

Florida 2018 Teacher of the Year Jessica Solano and current Citrus County School District Teacher of the Year Theresa Ryan can teach a thing or two.

Solano visited Ryan’s third-grade classroom at Citrus Springs Elementary School (CSES) on Thursday to observe her teaching methods as a fellow educator.

“I’m honored and our district is so happy,” Ryan said. “This is a big deal.”

Solano, a third-grade teacher from Polk County, does speaking events all over the state and makes a point to stop and visit as many classrooms as possible.

“She emailed me,” Ryan said. “She just said she’d love to come out and visit my classroom.”

“I have a gutsy goal this year,” Solano said. “I’m trying to get to all (school) districts in Florida. One way I can do that is to get in contact with teachers of the year and Terri was willing to let me in.”

Ryan showcased her enthusiasm for teaching math interactively by having students solve word problems and display their answers on dry erase boards.

“What she saw was our math warm-up,” Ryan said. “I make up my own word problems, the kids solve them, and we talk about the strategies. They’re multi-step word problems because that’s probably what’s most challenging for them.”

“I like to take a lot of pictures and I’ll put them on social media so then a lot of other educators can take those ideas and bring them into their schools,” Solano said. “I know Ms. Ryan has been working very hard to develop her skills as a teacher and that is having an impact on her students. That skillfulness is hard and it takes that growth mindset to develop, but in doing so you’re impacting students and you get recognition as well.”

Ryan credits her success in teaching to her approachable and personable nature. In January, Ryan was awarded the Citrus County School District Teacher of the Year honor, and before that she was named CSES Teacher of the Year.

“I have a great rapport with my students,” Ryan said. “I’m not scared to be goofy, and I think that works. We’re such a good classroom community that they want to learn. They’re not afraid to take risks with me. I have high expectations, but they know that I know they can do it. My belief in them comes through and they believe they can do it and that’s amazing. We are part of each other’s life. In this classroom were a family, and we really are.”

Solano is a proponent of focus and hard work. In her eighth year of teaching, she has received one of the highest teaching awards in the state.

“Effective teachers are ones that are continuous learners,” Solano said. “They’re empowered to constantly grow their skills, and then translate that to their students. In our profession a lot of teachers like to be humble and that’s a great quality, but I think it’s important for them to realize that the reason they’ve gotten to this level is because they’ve developed skillfulness as a teacher. It is truly hard work.”

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