My time is spent designing engaging activities that correlate to my students’ lives outside the classroom. And by doing what is best for them, they truly become contributing citizens of the world.
Aubrey Poppel did not attend college with the intention of becoming a teacher, nor did she spend the first few years of her career in a classroom. But after realizing she thrived most when put in a proactive situation, rather than a reactive situation, she decided that she had been led to teach. Now in her fourth year as a certified teacher, all of which have been spent at Morris Innovative High School, Poppel was named the 2017-18 Dalton Public Schools Teacher of the Year.
Poppel was honored at a ceremony for all of the school-level winners in the district before the Dalton Board of Education meeting on October 10. MIHS Principal Pat Hunt said Poppel is known by coworkers as 'Awesome Aubrey' because of the way she works collaboratively with her colleagues, offers technology help to other teachers after school, serves on the district and school design teams, works with the BrightSpark program and more.
"Aubrey is able to reach her students because she thinks outside the box. Her classroom is always alive with activity. Aubrey incorporates technology in the classroom and finds real world topics to relate to the content she is teaching," said Hunt.
In her Teacher of the Year application, Poppel said she feels her greatest contributions thus far have been helping her students pursue their dreams and celebrating those successes with them.
"I have watched some of my students become managers, police officers, social workers and doctors. I have also been there when they didn't receive the promotion or get accepted to their dream college," she said. "Being there and helping them to determine their next steps, to help them understand the importance of their journey through education, that may be my greatest accomplishment. And because of that and my continuing strive to be proactive, I am a teacher."
Poppel said she feels fortunate to have found a district that allows her the opportunity to grow, succeed and fail. Her courses are usually project or performance based in assessment, and she isn't afraid to let students sit where they are comfortable or express themselves. In her classroom, students collaborate the way they will in their future careers, which makes the work intentional, regardless of the content.
"I don't think being an outstanding teacher means that I am an expert in my content area, as content can change. It's the ability to relate to students, be respectful and model what I think an adult in today's world should be," she said. "Although seeing my students receive scholarships or go to college is rewarding, I think that it is more fulfilling when I see my students become good adults. Adults who email me or stop by to tell me about the promotion they just received at their job, because that means they persevered and worked hard. That is what is really rewarding."
Interim Superintendent Don Amonett said Poppel is a great example of an exceptional teacher. "I think the Teacher of the Year must be strong in his or her understanding of and caring about the kids," he said. "It takes a deep understanding of information to be able to fully help someone else master that information, but it takes an even more understanding and caring heart to make the learner see the desire to help them. Aubrey does just this in the way she builds genuine, authentic relationships with her students."
Poppel continues to improve her own education, as she feels teachers should be held accountable for self-improvement. She obtained her ESOL certification, enrolled in the first cohort of teachers to learn conversational Spanish to better bridge the gap between her and her students, and most recently began her Gifted Educator certification.
"When teachers are better, and more capable, student skill and capacity will also increase," Poppel added. "My time is spent designing engaging activities that correlate to my students' lives outside the classroom. And by doing what is best for them, they truly become contributing citizens of the world."
Other school-level Teacher of the Year honorees include: Edith Nava, ESOL teacher at Blue Ridge School; Brittany Hendon, fourth-grade teacher at Brookwood School; Edgar Nava, fifth-grade teacher at City Park School; Amber Lebron, third-grade teacher at Park Creek School; JamieLou Phillips, kindergarten teacher at Roan School; Eric Smith, math teacher at Dalton Middle School; and Chef Nathan Greven, culinary arts instructor at Dalton High School.