WESTFIELD - A beloved teacher is getting a very special award.
Eleventh-grade English teacher Laura Wilson began her journey with Westfield Academy and Central School as a student teacher in the late 1990s. She was hired on full-time shortly after, and feels this school is like a family.
"I have only taught here. My heart is here," Wilson said. "It feels like a home."
OBSERVER Photo by Jasmine Willis
Laura Wilson received the 2014 Educator of Excellence Award from the New York State English Council.
Fellow high school English teacher Mary Gloss submitted a rather long nomination letter to the New York State English Council to persuade members to give Wilson the 2014 Educator of Excellence Award.
Wilson receive the good news June 13, and could not wait to tell Gloss and everyone else who made it possible. "I had a lot to work with," Gloss said. "Laura is very successful."
The conference itself is not until Oct. 24, when Wilson will receive the award and participate in the conference luncheon.
"Without Kathy, the rest of us wouldn't be here," she said. "Mary put a lot of work into this and I appreciate it."
"I was surprised. I feel I am just doing my job; being recognized for it is a bonus," Wilson continued. "There are a lot of good teachers in western New York. This is a very nice ending to the school year."
Wilson plans on inviting her mentor and retired English Department Chairperson Kathy Ponka, as well as former English department chairperson and good friend Gloss to the luncheon.
Some of the highlights Gloss pointed out in the nomination letter are what helped Wilson get the award.
While teaching "All Quiet on the Western Front," Wilson created an Apprentice-style competition collecting toys, personal necessities, creating T-shirts, and competing for original concepts for how to help Iraqi families during the war in Iraq. The result was 26 boxes shipped to Iraq.
Last year, when teaching "A Long Walk to Water," her eighth-grade English class had to come up with a fundraiser to dig a water well for the "Water For South Sudan Project." They raised $2,500.
After teaching "Lord of the Flies," Wilson created a Surviver-type competition with the 10th grade English class. The students took part in the daily challenges and realized the whole point of the book.
"We do a lot of great things here," Wilson said. "We are a loving, caring and gifted staff."
The only one to win this award in Westfield is Wilson. Even though Wilson grew up in Sherman, and graduated from SUNY Fredonia, she has always wanted to teach at Westfield.
"This was my top choice in student teaching placement," she said. "I felt right at home when I got here."
The advice Wilson would give to any aspiring English teacher is to be patient.
"Be patient about students and learning," she said. "Love literature and make that count. It is becoming a lost art."
"It was my choice to nominate her. Our school community wanted to recognize her," Gloss said. "We believe it is important our good English teachers get recognized."
Wilson appreciates the joint effort in her getting this honor.
"My department is very supportive in everything," she said. "I have a tight-knit department that made this possible. We all hit it off right away. We are very unique that way. Teachers who leave this school, and come back say they never felt this way anywhere else."
Gloss and Wilson have gone to the conference in the past, and feel it is very beneficial to their department.
"She deserves it," Gloss said. "That is why we did it."