South Side High School World History Teacher Emily Oberlin has been named the 2013 Fort Wayne Community Schools Teacher of the Year. Oberlin began her teaching career six years ago and has spent the last three years at South Side, joining the school when it became a LEAD school.
Oberlin was selected as Teacher of the Year because of her dedication to bringing World History to life for students and connecting with students in areas where it matters – in serving and caring for others. When a student came to her earlier this year mourning a coach who had died, Oberlin helped her find a way to express her grief and simultaneously honor her coach. From that, "Let it Be Known" was born, a movement that has spread to several other schools in the city. The movement is based on the idea of letting others know how much they are appreciated and loved. South Side students and staff created a video sharing their thoughts and feelings about others in the building. The tribute can be found at http://youtu.be/vql1i63vHlw.
"I want my students to know how to be good citizens, help others and think and solve for themselves," she said. "I want for them to find what makes them come alive in the world and to feel the courage to go after that."
Oberlin is known at South Side for her creative ways of engaging students. This year, she encouraged her colleagues to join staff kickball and cornhole teams. Videos were created to promote both teams to encourage school spirit and student participation in the events. She has also hosted learning events, such as the World Religions Fair. Last year, more than 150 guests, including representatives from various religious groups, parents, School Board members and City Council members. This week, she is working with students on public service announcements on issues facing African countries. The PSAs made by the students are targeted at their peers to create an awareness of the issues.
"I want students to leave my classroom and do something in this world," Oberlin said during her interview for Teacher of the Year. "Go try it."
Superintendent Dr. Wendy Robinson praised Oberlin, "Emily Oberlin is a shining example of what it means to be a teacher today. Our best teachers don't just share information with students, they engage them, they challenge them, they teach them how to be productive, responsible citizens. Emily chose to join South Side when others might have thought it was too challenging. She not only took on that challenge but became a leader."
Candidates for Teacher of the Year are nominated by building principals with finalists chosen by a committee of administrators. The other finalists this year were Jenny Barney, fifth-grade teacher at Glenwood Park Elementary; Estelle Griggs, third-grade teacher at Forest Park Elementary; Carissa Richardson, science teacher at Northwood Middle School; and Wendy Wichern, social studies teacher at Blackhawk Middle School. Oberlin and the finalists will be honored at a School Board meeting in the fall. Oberlin will also be nominated for Indiana Teacher of the Year.