Pioneer's Own Named City-Wide Teacher of the Year

Pioneer's Own Named City-Wide Teacher of the Year
Posted on 04/02/2018

Congratulations to Katelyn Leitner-Black, a 5th-grade teacher at Pioneer Elementary School, who has been selected as Suffolk Public Schools’ 2018 City-Wide Teacher of the Year.Congratulations also to William Carter of King’s Fork Middle School, who was named Middle School Teacher of the Year … Kristen Ellis of Nansemond River High School, who was named High School Teacher of the Year … and Christopher Stadler of Northern Shores Elementary School, who was selected as Rookie Teacher of the Year.

2018 City-Wide Teacher of the Year

Now in her fourth year of teaching, Katelyn Leitner-Black is known for her enthusiasm, creativity, and engaging teaching style.  Her students call her the “crazy teacher” because they’ve never had a teacher stand on a desk to teach a class, or sing rap lyrics to help them understand a science concept.  They say she never has a bad day and she makes learning fun.

“I have realized that I might be the only smile they see that day; I might be the only one who has ever played with them during recess and I might be the only positive role model they have in their life,” she explains. “How powerful is that?  I am a leader, I am a friend, I am a nurse, I am a mom, I am a Teacher!”

Unlike many teachers, Leitner-Black says her career choice was not because a great teacher inspired her.  Instead she went into teaching because she struggled as a student.  She says she became a teacher because she knew learning could be fun and engaging, “and I wanted to be the change.”  She wants to teach struggling students because she knows how it feels, and she is “passionate about reigniting a love for learning.”

Her grandfather’s story also pushes her.  He struggled through school, was unable to read, and dropped out at a young age. “When he found out I was going to be a teacher, tears filled his eyes and he had a heart-to-heart conversation with me expressing his concern for students who are so low that they get left behind, like himself.  I then promised him that I would do my best every single day to close that gap for students like him.”

Parent Katie Moegenberg praises Leitner-Black for sparking a significant change in her son Griffin, who has autism.  He now loves going to school to see his friend Mrs. Leitner-Black.  About three weeks into the new school year, Griffin came home crying happy tears because Mrs. Leitner-Black “told me today how smart I am. She is the only teacher that has ever told me I am smart. She understands my brain.” His mother says her son’s grades have improved tremendously, his passion for learning is back, and his social skills have improved. “It has been said that everyone has that one teacher they will never forget,” she wrote. “I know without a doubt that Mrs. Leitner-Black will be Griffin’s.”

Beyond her impact in the classroom, Leitner-Black also leads a weekly after-school science club at the Whaleyville Community Center.  She represented the school division on a state curriculum committee.  She serves on the board of the local non-profit Down the Middle Foundation.

This summer, she will travel to Ghana as a teacher leader as part of the Limited Resources Teacher Training (LRTT) international program.  LRTT sends teachers from economically developed countries to poor countries in Africa and Asia.  She will be part of unique team of qualified and dedicated teachers to co-facilitate effective and contextually relevant professional development for native teachers.

Leitner-Black earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Radford University, and was just awarded a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Averett University.

 

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