Area teacher among national finalists

Submitted Photos Over the past four years, Janet Decker, middle, has helped raise over $27,000 for Special Olympics NY through the annual Polar Plunge. Her daughter, Julie, second from left, is the District’s highest fundraiser over the past four years.

SILVER CREEK — Through her work inside the classroom and out, Janet Decker is a champion for her students at the Silver Creek Central School District. Now, Decker hopes to be a champion in another sense.

Decker is currently competing in the 2024 Reader’s Digest contest to name America’s Favorite Teacher. She has already advanced past two stages of voting and is seeking a spot in the Top 10. The winner will win a trip to Hawaii and a prize of $25,000.

Decker entered the contest on a whim and was thrilled when she received an email stating she would be in the running for the title. The contest began March 25, and since then, Decker has advanced through the round of 25 and the round of 15. Votes for Decker can be cast online at americasfavteacher.org/2024/janet-decker.

As Reader’s Digest states on its website, “You never forget your favorite teacher.” That statement is the driving force behind the contest to select a winner for the award. The website states that a teacher’s “dedication goes far beyond the classroom, influencing the character and values of the next generation.”

Decker seems to fit that description quite well.

Decker is a Middle School Special Education Teacher who specializes in a course that promotes life skills for her students. She also serves as an advisor to the Youth Advisory Committee, a student-run group that helps promote understanding and acceptance for all students, especially those with disabilities. She also began coaching in 2020 and now coaches three sports: Unified Bowling, Varsity Cheerleading, and Modified Girls Track.

Decker, who has been a teacher at Silver Creek since 2001, hopes that her experience as a teacher across all grade levels and service levels at Silver Creek will entice the nationwide contest to consider someone from a small, rural school in western New York. She said she works hard every day to make the educational experiences for her students unique, individualized, and fun.

Decker is also heavily involved with Special Olympics NY through Unified Sports and the Youth Advisory Committee. Over the past four years, Decker has led a group of students and staff participating in the Special Olympics Polar Plunge, helping to raise over $27,000 for the organization. She also volunteers with her students at the NY Special Olympic Fall Games and the Special Olympics Buffalo Bowl Fundraiser. Silver Creek Central School District was awarded National Banner Status by Special Olympics earlier this school year for its commitment to inclusion.

Decker aims to treat her students and their families like she would want her own children and family to be treated. Over the years, she has made connections with not just the students she teaches, but also their families. She stated her class is a family, and that is just the way she likes it.

Decker’s family is also a part of the District she calls home. Married to her husband, Donald Decker, for 25 years, the couple raised two daughters that attended Silver Creek schools. Ellie Decker graduated from Silver Creek in 2021 as Salutatorian, then went on to study at SUNY Oswego, where she also competed as a cross country runner. Julie Decker, a senior at Silver Creek High School, is also heavily involved with Unified Sports alongside her mother. She has consistently led all participants each year in fundraising efforts for the Polar Plunge to benefit the Special Olympics.

Decker is extremely grateful for her family, friends, colleagues, current and former students, and members of the community. She hopes to share her success with the community she calls home.

Voting to determine the Top 10 closes this Thursday, April 18. Voting will then begin immediately to determine the Top 5. Votes can be cast once every 24 hours.

For more information about the contest visit: americasfavteacher.org/rules.


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