A Jennie P. Stewart Elementary first-grade teacher from Centerville has been awarded one of six outstanding educator awards for the PTA's 2008 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Education. The Utah PTA Golden Apple Awards 2008 premieres on KUED-Channel 7 Wednesday, May 28, at 8 p.m. This special program features the awards ceremony, in combination with on-site footage shot at the Jennie P. Stewart School.
The PTA honored Lynda Mullins, who was selected from numerous teacher nominees from nearly every school in Utah. Mullins's nominators were plentiful, including four peers, a past and current principal, the PTA president and a resource teacher. PTA President Pauline Bowen describes Mullins as a "kid magnet" and says Mullins is the "sought out, coveted teacher that parents want their children to have."
Kathleen Bagley, current principal at Snow Horse Elementary, and former principal of Stewart Elementary, asks whether or not people have any idea how complicated teaching first grade is. "Learning to read IS ‘rocket science,' and Lynda Mullins is a master at teaching it!" said Bagley.
She said Mullins makes learning memorable for her students. "While visiting her classroom on numerous occasions, I found children were eagerly following the lead of their teacher as she created magic for nearly seven hours every day. I often observed her as she helped her students segment words by ‘chopping' the sounds up their arms and taught letter formation by singing."
Mullins' "Evening of Authors" program is an annual favorite among students and parents alike. Digital pictures of each child are taken by Mullins, accompanied by an original story written in first-grade handwriting by each child. Each spring, these young writers present an "evening of authors" for their families, reading a favorite book they had written, in voices ranging from "quivery to bold."
Prior to the start of each school year, Mullins makes a home visit to each child in her class. She takes the time to meet with the parents and get to know the children. Several of her nominators cited the efforts Mullins made to help a child in her class who was diagnosed as selective mute.
"Mrs. Mullins took this child under her wing and made a difference in her life. She visited this child in her home regularly and created social situations that would ensure successful social development both at school and at home. Mrs. Mullins knew that the lunchroom was a big place for this little girl, and she provided a ‘lunch bunch' group consisting of a small group of friends (which rotated daily) for the child. Eventually, the child began to have lunchtime conversations with her lunch bunch. Mrs. Mullins continued to work with the student's parents to arrange playgroups after school in this student's home. The child eventually made friends and found herself comfortable at school with her peers."
Mullins believes that parents and teachers are partners in their child's education. "Studies show that if a child is a poor reader by the end of first grade, they have a 95 percent chance of being a poor reader by the end of ninth grade. I mention that statistic during each Back to School presentation," Mullins said, adding that the parent/teacher partnership has helped all of her students be more fluent readers through the years.
Mullins makes a mental note of those children that appear to be struggling when they arrive at school, and works to ensure that those students have a successful day. "Success" is defined by Mullins as "achieving your personal best."
The evaluation techniques Mullins learned and implemented in her own class have become the standard for all reading assessments at Stewart Elementary. Mullins' current Principal, Vonzaa Hewitt, said Mullins "makes behavior management look effortless by encouraging positive academic and behavioral expectations."
The Golden Apple Awards are funded in part by the Emma Eccles Jones Foundation, Utah Education Network, Educators Mutual Insurance Association., and the Utah Education Association.
The Utah PTA Golden Apple Awards 2008 premieres on KUED-Channel 7 Wednesday, May 28, at 8 p.m., repeating Sunday, June 1, at 6 p.m. Video clips and interviews with each award recipient can be seen on the KUED web site: http://www.kued.org/goldenapples
Golden Apple Award Recipient Lynda Mullins
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