Puyallup School District teachers Desiree Carson and Sara Deaver headed to their respective staff meetings early last month expecting to hear about possible policy changes coming to their schools from Superintendent Dr. Tim Yeomans.
What they got instead was the surprise of their professional careers.
Carson and Deaver were given the news that they’d been named the Puyallup School District Teachers of the Year.
Carson, an Aylen Junior High science and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) teacher, received the award for the secondary teacher of the year and Deaver, who teaches third grade at Firgrove Elementary, received the award for elementary teacher of the year.
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Both teachers received a plaque, a bouquet of flowers, and an opportunity for professional development classes with a colleague.
“It provides us with some empowerment,” Carson said.
Carson was surprised by the announcement, but also considered it a community award, since during this past year she has had plenty of opportunities to accomplish great things with her teaching team.
“In Puyallup, and especially at Aylen, it takes a village,” the 27-year-old said. “I think it’s similar to what they say about heroes; it’s an everyday person that has an opportunity come their way to do something good. I really think that is what this was about.”
Carson taught some professional development courses, and helps students make their college dreams a reality through her position as an AVID teacher. She has also taught the physics of scuba diving and Washington state boating safety courses during the school’s student intervention time.
Carson was born and raised in Puyallup, and completed her student teaching at Chief Leschi. She has been teaching at Aylen for four years. Her favorite part about teaching is the ability to provide access for all students to succeed.
“It’s the one place in their life that will even the playing field,” she said. “It’s nice to see those opportunities and see who takes advantage of them. It’s a different day every day.”
Deaver has taught third grade at Firgrove since 2006. Like Carson, she was also surprised.
“I was shocked,” she said. “My administrator (Kristen Schroeder) turned in an application for me, (and) I didn’t know. It was a surprise. She sent me the application that she sent in because she said, ‘You didn’t get selected, but I really wanted you to know how I felt about you.’ She really thought I didn’t get selected, and so I read all of this nice stuff that she wrote and was really impressed. She said a lot of nice things. I didn’t think anything else of it. I thought, ‘Oh this is nice, I’m going to keep it to look back on when I’m having a bad day.’”
Then during a weekly staff meeting, Deaver was greeted with praise and accolades from her coworkers.
“Dr. Yeomans was there, and I got called to go up front, and then they said that I got teacher of the year,” the 34-year-old said. “I was like, ‘What?’ I was in shock. He said, ‘Don’t look this scared at the board meeting on Monday.’”
Deaver credits Schroeder and learning specialist Mandy Kraft for her award.
“My team established a relationship with her (Shroeder) where we were very open and could go to her with whatever issues we were having,” Deaver said. “She’s just very easy to talk to. Since she’s been here, I have become a better teacher just from the feedback that she gives. She has very high expectations.”
Kraft, a building learning specialist at Firgrove, helped come up with assessments and lessons for Deaver.
“She is very supportive, and always gives suggestions and constructive criticism,” she said. “She has really helped me and my team do a really good job.”
Deaver’s favorite part of teaching is establishing relationships with her students and making a difference in their lives, all while helping students set high expectations for themselves.
“A lot of these kids come from rough backgrounds, and sometimes this is the safest place for them,” she said. “I want them to have a nurturing environment where they feel comfortable. I am still pretty strict and hard on them ... I try to be warm and nurturing and loving, where at the same time I don’t let them get by with things.”