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Last updated: Thu. May. 29, 2014 - 11:40 am EDT


Lessons from top teacher

Work isn’t work when career feeds your love, passion

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FORT WAYNE — It was difficult to tell who was more excited Wednesday – Fort Wayne Community Schools’ newest Teacher of the Year or her classroom of 25 energetic second-graders.

Adams Elementary teacher Linda Shafer was named the district’s 2014 Teacher of the Year during a surprise visit from several FWCS leaders.

“I can’t believe it,” Shafer said about the award. “It’s such an honor to know that out of all the amazing teachers, they picked me.”

Shafer will also be nominated for Indiana Teacher of the Year.

Shafer’s second-grade classroom erupted with excitement Wednesday after learning their teacher had been selected to represent the district’s nearly 1,900 teachers.

“Don’t you think she deserves it?” Superintendent Wendy Robinson asked the students.

“Yes!” they cheered.

Shafer began her teaching career in 1996 as a substitute and later part-time teacher. She came to FWCS five years ago and has worked at Adams Elementary for four years.

But work doesn’t seem like work when you’re doing what you love, Shafer said.

“Boys and girls, you make me love my job every day,” Shafer told her students. “It never feels like I’m coming to work.”

Rico Shaneyfelt, 7, hesitated for a moment to think about what his teacher had said.

“No!” he shouted.

Shafer explained she loved her job so much that it didn’t feel as if she was working, and Rico sighed with relief.

“Oh, good, I thought you said you weren’t coming back to work,” he said.

Shafer recently formed a foundation called Sparks of Promise, which will provide programs for students who show high ability but need more support outside of school in order to reach their full potential.

Sparks of Promise will begin with a group of four fourth-graders who will participate in six 6-week programs including exposure to the ballet, STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – programs and other activities.

“Linda Shafer is the kind of teacher every child deserves to have in their lives. She knows that students learn best when they know someone cares for them,” Robinson said.

“She shows that in how she responds to students in her classroom and in her building and in how she focuses on tailoring instruction to each student’s needs.”

Other Teacher of the Year finalists nominated by building principals were Doug Koerner, seventh-grade language arts teacher at Miami Middle School; Mark Matson, Project Lead the Way-Biomedical at Snider High School; Sara Pulse, music teacher at Indian Village Elementary; and Amy Tapp, first-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary.

Shafer and the finalists will be honored at a school board meeting in the fall.

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