Woodson humbled by teaching honor

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County's Teacher of the Year will compete for regional title

By Tom Wilmoth

    When Debra Woodson was named Bedford County’s Teacher of the Year, it was as if her entire educational career passed before her eyes.

    “It was very exciting,” she said of the announcement made at a banquet earlier this month. “I never expected it in a million years. I was just so surprised.”
    Woodson, who teaches 11th and 12th grade English at JF, spent last week finishing up her packet for the Region V Teacher of the Year competition, an announcement of that winner won’t be made until the fall. She believes a teacher needs to be real and her methods up-to-date.
    “It’s very humbling,” she said of the county honor.
    In fact, Woodson said she was just thrilled to be recognized for her daily work by being named  JF’s Teacher of the Year.
    Teaching English wasn’t  her  original career path.
    She started out as a Spanish major—“I quickly learned that was not for me”—and then leaned toward political science. By her sophomore year she had gravitated toward English, a decision she doesn’t regret. “I get to be surrounded by the books I absolutely adore,” she said.
    And she gets to inspire that love for reading and writing into her students.
    Woodson said research is a crucial skill for students to learn.
    A key is keeping the class up-to-date in the learning methods, tapping into the forms of communication—such as blogs, websites and twitter—that students use on a daily basis.
    She anticipates adding “flip learning” to her classes next year. In that method, teachers post videos of their teaching so students can view them at home, and then come to class to do the lessons on that subject. That allows for a more personalized learning experience.
    Woodson added, however, that technology will never be able to replace “good, solid teaching.” But it is a tool that can support that teaching.
    She said it’s important to spur students to continue to read, to learn to use the Internet for their own intellectual gain, “not just for socializing.”
    What does she want her students to do? “Just read, read, read. And have an opinion.”
    Woodson has taught for 29 years. When not in the classroom, she enjoys visiting with her three children and grandchildren. One daughter, who is married with two children, lives in the Virgin Islands. Another daughter lives in Blacksburg and her son is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University.
    Woodson—who first taught with Bedford County Public Schools in the 1980s rejoined the district at JF in 2001 after teaching for a decade in Amherst County—and her mom, Jane Woodson, live together in Lynchburg. “My family keeps me busy,” she said.
    Her mom taught at Liberty High School in the ‘60s and moved over to JF as the director of guidance when the school opened.
    Woodson was selected as the county’s Teacher of the Year from a group of three finalists that also included Eric Martin, physical education teacher at Stewartsville Elementary and Sandra Brookshier, life science teacher at Bedford Middle School. Those three were selected from the Teachers of the Year that had been named at each school.
    The  announcement was during the Teacher of the Year recognition dinner held at the Boonsboro Country Club.