Priddy latest district teacher to be Kansas Teacher of the Year finalist
Making sure every De Soto student who is learning to read has access to books at home is one more thing that makes Tana Priddy standout in her job.
Starside Elementary School Principal Paula Hill said she wasn't surprised when Priddy was named a finalist Saturday in the Region III Kansas Teacher of the Year Award.
"One of the things that came through in what Tana did is that she sees herself as more than just a reading teacher," Hill said. "She's a very good problem-solver and identifies what students need."
Priddy realized what her reading students needed were books at home. So, she applied for, and was awarded, a grant to give all kindergarten students 48 books to read throughout the year. This year, she obtained the grant for first-graders as well. Hill said the many students at Starside who speak Spanish at home received their books in Spanish.
As a Title I school, Hill said Starside has four reading specialists who help students gain a better understanding of what they've read and how to apply that knowledge.
"We identify students who have needs in the area of reading," Hill said. "It's very different from special education."
Priddy became a reading specialist at Starside five years ago. She had been a second-grade teacher in other districts, but soon decided teaching reading was her passion.
"When I was in the classroom, I saw a huge need for students to get assistance in reading early on," Priddy said. "That intervention is critical because by second grade if they're struggling in reading, they'll struggle in math, because they can't read the word problems or they can't read what the science article is saying."
Priddy said she works with students at all grade levels and at many different reading skill levels. She co-teaches with traditional classroom teachers and meets with students in small groups.
"My favorite part about teaching is developing those strong relationships with each student and getting to know them outside the district," she said. "It's been very rewarding to watch these students as they grow and develop into young people."
District Community Relations Director Alvie Cater said this year marks the seventh in a row that De Soto has had a semifinalist.
"We've had excellent representation in the Teacher of the Year program," he said. "We're thrilled we have teachers that qualified and get recognized for what they do every day."
Two years ago, Monticello Trails Middle School social studies teacher and De Soto resident Keil Hileman was named Kansas Teacher of the Year.
Ron Poplau of Shawnee Mission Northwest was also named a finalist for Region III, which covers Wyandotte, Johnson and some of Miami County. The finalists were given a $2,000 award from the Security Benefit Group of Companies and will be considered for the Kansas Teacher of the Year award in November. Winners of the state award are then considered for the National Teacher of the Year award.