By SARAH JOHNSON
At the June 10 Board of Education meeting, Middle School of Plainville teacher Leanne Gmeindl was announced as Plainville’s 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year.
Gmeindl is in special education as a reading specialist.
Matthew Guarino, the principal at MSP, explained the process of choosing a teacher for this honor. “Teacher of the year is a position nominated by a colleague. Their application is evaluated by a committee of teachers, including prior teachers of the year. Any teacher can be chosen since this is a system-wide nomination. The teachers often picked are very child-centered, experts in their area of concern, and have taken on leadership roles. They stand out and their colleagues know it.”
At the board meeting, Gmeindl gave a brief speech and received a certificate from the school system. Gmeindl was nominated by colleague Denise Grodzicki. In a statement, Grodzicki said “I nominated Leanne because she is a fantastic teacher. She is passionate about her students and her job. She always has a smile on her face, she is always positive and always welcoming. She truly cares about all of her students and models professionalism when working with parents and co workers. Any student that has Leanne as a teacher is a very lucky student.”
“I am honored, humbled, and excited to be named as Plainville’s 2013 2014 Teacher of the Year,” Gmeindl exclaimed. “My position at MSP is special education reading teacher. I am so proud of my students and how hard they work every day. Reading is a difficult task for them and yet they persevere. I often tell my students that we are a team, and together, we will work through their reading disabilities to succeed. I want them to know how much I care about them as students, yes, but also as young adults who are maneuvering their way through middle school, which is not an easy task.”
Gmeindl’s work with the students is more than a career for her. “It is about making connections and building relationships,” she said. “It’s instilling confidence in others so that they can move on to be successful adults. There is a long-term goal in mind, always.”
Assisting students to reach their potential is always a big accomplishment, as far as Gmeindl sees things. This doesn’t come without its challenges. “Many of my students are between two and four years behind in their reading skills. It takes a very long time to see results. I love when the kids come back to MSP to visit me once they are in high school. They are so excited to tell me how great they are doing. That is always very fulfilling. It shows that the work that we have done together really paid off…they are success stories.”
Along the way, some situations have made unforgettable impacts on Gmeindl in her work. “One of my students dropped out of school in the 10th grade. I found out and was very upset about it. He came to visit me at MSP two years ago to bring me a Mother’s Day card. He said that I was the closest person he had who he felt really cared about him. We had a long talk and he ended up going back to school to get his GED. It was life changing, I think, for the both of us. When students can express just how much you have positively influenced them, that is the greatest gift.”
Leanne said she would like to thank her students who, throughout the years, have enabled her to grow as a teacher. “I would also like to thank those who I consider to be mentors, I continue to learn from them daily. It’s also important to thank my husband, who is the most caring and supportive person that I know.”
Aside from teaching at MSP, Gmeindl has a lot on her plate. “I am also an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University. I love it. I love leading future teachers and being able to discuss issues in education and instill my beliefs about teaching. It is a tremendous opportunity yet a big responsibility, which I embrace. It is a very reflective process for me, as it reminds me to ‘practice what I preach’ in my own classroom. The experience has enabled me to grow as both a teacher and colleague to others. In my spare time [she laughed at the idea], I enjoy spending time with my family.”
“Leanne is the ideal representative for the teachers of the district of Plainville,” principal Guarino said. “I’m not surprised she was chosen. We are so happy to have her here at the middle school.”
As Teacher of the Year in Plainville, Gmeindl also will participate as a candidate for Connecticut’s 2014 Teacher of the Year Program. Each district’sTeacher of the Year will be individually recognized at an awards ceremony later this year hosted by the Connecticut Department of Education.
Gmeindl, a Bristol resident, holds a bachelor of science degree from Nazareth College of Rochester and a master of science degree from National University.