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Three of Bedford County’s top teachers have been selected as this year’s finalists for the county’s Teacher of the Year.
Eric Martin, physical education teacher at Stewartsville Elementary; Sandra Brookshier, life science teacher at Bedford Middle School; and Debra Woodson, 11th and 12th grade English teacher at Jefferson Forest High School , are the top finalists. They were selected from the Teachers of the Year at each county school.
All three finalists will now undergo classroom evaluations by judges. The winner will be announced during the Teacher of the Year recognition dinner on May 13 at the Boonsboro Country Club.
Sandra Brookshier, a 1974 graduate of Lynchburg College, earned an M ED Degree in middle school education in 1993 from LC. She began her teaching career in 1974 as a Huddleston Elementary summer school reading aide and has spent her entire career with Bedford County Public Schools.
Brookshier states her true commitment to teaching began at Staunton River High School as she saw a difference in how teachers conducted their classes. “It became obvious to me that the secret to teaching was to make the class interesting regardless of the subject matter,” Brookshier wrote in her professional biography.
And, she wrote, it took one teacher—Glenn Ayers, who taught public speaking and dramatics—to “seal the deal for me.”
“His enthusiasm was contagious and he pushed us to excel,” Brookshier wrote.
She got early teaching experience through 4-H Club activities. Over the years she has seen many changes in the teaching profession. “Today’s classrooms are so different, but the individual student needs are mostly unchanged,” she stated. “Teachers continue to do what is needed, but just use different materials and methods.”
Eventually life science became her niche subject, at which Brookshier has excelled. She recalls the day she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. “That day I left the classroom to take a call from my doctor about my diagnosis. I was truly stunned, but walked back into the classroom and kept teaching. If there was ever a passion to teach science, it was there on that day,” she wrote. I felt my future depended on furthering their knowledge and interest.”
Following a year of treatment she created a YouTube video of her journey through cancer treatment and dedicated it to her science students. “I believe in the power of science! It is my hope they will reap the benefits of the advances in science,” Brookshier stated. “Maybe one day one of my students will discover a cure.”
Brookshier believes she has made a difference in the world through teaching and inspiring students to learn. “There is such a feeling of pride when I see a former student and they thank me for making a difference in their life,” she said.
Eric Martin, the physical education teacher at Stewartsville Elementary, earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Radford University in 2010 and is working toward a Master of Science degree from West Virginia University. He began his teaching career at the Pulaski County Public School system in 2010 and has been with BCPS since 2012.
Martin wrote in his professional biography for the teacher of the year application that his love for sports, fitness and youth were all deciding factors to become a health and physical education teacher.
While in high school, Martin had his first teaching experience as a coach for a recreational soccer team. “I knew after the first week of coaching that being part of their development was more rewarding than anything I had experienced in my own athletic career,” stated Martin. “I was confident that teaching youth the value of a healthy lifestyle and athletics was the most rewarding career choice I could pursue.”
While studying at Radford, Martin said the motto instilled in the students there was “Learning to Move, Moving to Learn.”
“That motto has remained with me throughout my teaching career,” he stated. “My professors were passionate about developing future physical educators and it was clear that student learning should and would be the driving force behind our instruction.”
Martin said in his brief teaching career, his most significant contribution “is the life-long fitness activities that I have exposed to my students.” He has created a 5K race and school-wide community health fair for Stewartsville with the goal of instilling a passion for lifelong health and fitness for both students and their families. He said in order to make students healthy it takes a comprehensive school wide approach supported by the community and business partners.
“As an elementary physical educator, it is my responsibility to lay the foundation to build physically active and healthy lifestyles, one student at a time,” Martin wrote.
Debra Woodson, who teaches 11th and 12th grade English at Jefferson Forest High School, graduated from Lynchburg College in 1980 with a degree in English and has earned 21 graduate hours from the University of Virginia and Lynchburg College.
Woodson began her teaching career in Hampton Public Schools in 1980 and taught from 1984-1988 in Bedford County Public Schools, After teaching for a decade in Amherst County, she returned to BCPS in 2001, teaching high school English.
“Writing on my play chalkboard, I tormented my younger brother for years with my pretend teaching,” Woodson writes in her professional biography.
“It was what I was born to do though my nascent ideas have been transformed by the actual act of teaching,” she stated.
While doing her student teaching under her former senior English teacher, she realized teaching “was my calling.”
“All levels of readers are in my classes and regardless of their abilities, each can find a way into the text which then transforms them,” she wrote.
She said students often write after they graduate to tell her about their college experiences and how her classes shaped their future studies and lives. “I am touched by these,” she stated, adding she considers them “the most informed opinions of what I do on a daily basis as they have first-hand knowledge of the day-to-day in our classroom and the ways these activities inform their college educations, graduate studies, careers, lives.”
Woodson said facilitating and believing in the non-traditional academic student is a contribution for which she takes pride. “If I can guide some underserved students who would not think of working and thinking as hard as we do in class on their own, I feel ecstatic,” she stated. “If I helped some underserved students to score a qualifying score on the AP exam for college credit giving them a lift towards their future, I have made a worthwhile contribution of which I am proud.”
And those are the moments in which she cherishes and hopes “have contributed in some small measure to our society.”