Ginnings Elementary School in Denton is building quite the dynasty.
For the past three years, the school has claimed the Jostens Elementary Teacher of the Year, the most consecutive educators named from one school in the past 10 years. The most recent honoree to Ginnings Elementary’s elite group was announced Tuesday when Jill Arnold, a teacher who works with dyslexic students, was selected as the district’s top elementary educator.
“I just enjoy working with children, and I just feel blessed that I received this honor,” she said.
Mary Mathis-Sadler, the choir director at Navo Middle School, was named the district’s Jostens Secondary Teacher of the Year.
“I am in total, absolute shock,” she could be overheard telling friends.
Arnold, Sadler and 31 other educators named top teachers at their respective campuses were honored at an awards ceremony Tuesday at the LaGrone Advanced Technology Complex. The awards are named for Jostens, a company with a jewelry plant in Denton that donated a gold ring to each individual school winner.
The district’s top educators, in addition to receiving the gold ring and other gifts, will receive a $500 check in their summer pay, a vehicle on loan from James Wood Autopark to drive 5,000 miles or until August, and $100 gas cards.
Both Arnold and Sadler will represent the district for the Region XI Educator of the Year award.
Mixing laughter, therapy
Arnold’s education career spans 24 years with eight years as a dyslexia therapist. At Tuesday’s ceremony, a district official read that Arnold’s philosophy “is to create an environment of calmness where risk-taking is commonplace and failure is just a small bump in the road that ultimately leads to ... success — in and out of the classroom.”
Shellie Anders, assistant principal at Ginnings Elementary, describes Arnold as patient, humble, someone with a great sense of humor, who’s down to earth with staff and students alike, a woman with high expectations for her students and someone dedicated to her craft.
Anders shared stories following the ceremony of how Arnold has a board outside her classroom for her dyslexic students with images of famous people who are dyslexic and how she recently walked past Arnold’s classroom to the sounds of laughter.
“She’s brings joy to her classroom,” Anders said. “As far as those students who just have … struggles, she’s right there with them. She just has it down to a science.”
Mathis-Sadler has taught music for 35 years at middle school, high school and college levels.
Shaun Perry, principal at Navo Middle School, said Sadler brings the best out of her students. She said on days when things are rough and he just needs to get out of his office, he walks to Sadler’s classroom.
“It’s a calming effect to observe her classroom and the great things that she does with her students,” he said.
Perry describes Sadler as kind-hearted, professional and a nurturer. Having Sadler named this year’s Jostens Secondary Teacher of the Year is not only great for her but for the school and Navo community at large, he said.
“I’m so excited right now,” Perry said Tuesday. “I know she’s still going to make it all about her students but I’m so glad we were able to make today all about her.”
At the ceremony were two of Sadler’s choir students, seventh-grade twins Ashley and Aaron Byrd. They cheered as her name was announced as the top secondary educator.
The twins agreed that Sadler is devoted to her students and sometimes stresses herself out to teach and help them succeed.
“She means the world to me,” Ashley said. “I’ve learned so much from her. She has helped me develop my singing voice.”
Without the students, the recognition would not have been possible, Sadler said.
“The students that I’ve taught over all these years, they’re the reason why this happened,” she said. “It’s a joy. It’s an absolute blessing.”
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.