For the second time, Bland County Elementary School sixth-grade teacher Debbie Blessing has been named the Bland County Outstanding Teacher of the Year.
“I’m very honored,” said Blessing, who also received the honor in 2012. “We all work really hard here. To think that I stand out among my peers, that makes me feel really good that they think I stand out.”
Blessing has been teacher 15 years, every one of them in sixth-grade.
“I think it’s a challenge working with middle school kids,” she said. “Every day, they bring me something new. You have to be ready for them.”
Over the years, Blessing has taught history and math. This year, she teaches only math classes. Of the two subjects, Blessing prefers to each history.
“I really enjoy it because the history taught in sixth grade is U.S. history from the Civil War until today – all of it – World War I, World War II, the civil rights movement – so many things that the kids are interested in. It’s just fun to teach.”
Sixth-grade math is challenging with a little bit of everything thrown in – algebra, geometry, converting decimals and percents.
“And their favorite – not – computation, where they have to computate fractions, multiplying and dividing fractions,” Blessing said, adding that she enjoys seeing her students progress throughout the school year.
“I start with kids who may not enjoy math, and by the end of the year, they are excited and say, ‘hey, I can do this,’” she said.
Blessing was honored by the Wytheville-Wythe-Bland Chamber of Commerce. In a letter recommending Blessing for the award, BCES Principal Laura Radford said Blessing is a skilled educator who possesses all the necessary organization, educational, verbal, written, and technological skills that contribute to her success as a productive instructional teacher and leader.
“She is a very intelligent person with a love for learning, and she applies the latest research and trends in her profession. She is a leader of technology in our school and in an impactful mentor to others,” Radford said, adding that Blessing is “greatly” respected by her peers and students.
“Mrs. Blessing is able to motivate all of her students and diligently strives to help them reach their full potential,” Radford said. “She easily establishes rapport with both students and parents. Her communication skills are outstanding. She consistently demonstrates respect for others and is a caring individual.”
In addition to teaching math this year, some of Blessing’s other professional activities include serving as the yearbook editor and web page coordinator, and working as an after-school tutor.
“Mrs. Blessing is a valuable member of our school faculty,” Radford said.
Blessing received an undergraduate degree from Concord College and a master’s degree in U.S. History from the University of Virginia at Wise.
In her application for the award, Blessing discussed her philosophy of teaching.
“I never would have thought that I would spend my entire career as a teacher in the same grade,” she said. “Middle school is not everyone’s first choice when given the option, but I have always loved it. I have found that I can relate to middle school students in a way that brings out the best in both of us. I try to bring energy into the classroom so that the students can enjoy learning. I work every day to build their confidence and to bring out their strengths and set them up for success.
“Every year, I see new challenges in my classroom,” she continued. “Most people never understand, when they think of teaching, how difficult our jobs can be. There are so many obstacles many of our students must overcome to be successful. Some of them have learning disabilities, health issues or behavior problems. A few share with us that their parents are in prison or have substance abuse problems. I try to make sure that all of my students feel safe and stress to them that my classroom is the place to come to where we will talk about our problems calmly without raising our voices to each other or putting others down. I truly think if you treat a child with respect he or she will give you their best and be successful in the classroom.”
Blessing said a teacher’s role is much bigger than teaching subject matter and teachers should prepare students to be successful in life. She said she tries to teach by example and apply three rules in the classroom: be fair, be firm and be consistent.
“The more respect I show my students the more respect I get in return,” she said.
Blessing said she tries to never give her students homework unless it is someone who can benefit from the extra practice at home.
“Many students today do not have the support at home and work done there may reflect parental support more than student ability,” she said. “For this reason, I spend less class time on direct instruction and more on student practice while I roam the room in my ‘rolling chair’ checking on student progress and helping everyone that is struggling. I create an environment where students are not afraid to ask for help and they are accountable for getting their assignments done.”
Blessing’s students took their math SOL test on Tuesday. Although her students historically do well on the test, she does not gauge their success or hers on the scores. Somewhere along the way, she said, many have forgotten that what individual students achieve in the classroom is more important than test score percentages.
“I think it is important as a teacher not to see each student as a score on a test, but as an individual that has tried his best,” she said. “Making a different that affects a life means more than a test score that will be forgotten after graduation.”
To reach Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 35, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.