CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Drema McNeal, a sixth grade language arts teacher at Park Middle School in Beckley, Raleigh County, is West Virginia’s 2011 Teacher of the Year. She will represent West Virginia in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
State Superintendent Steve Paine made the announcement Wednesday night during a ceremony in Charleston that recognized county teachers of the year. McNeal, who just began her 24th year in the classroom, has a master’s degree plus 60 credit hours, is currently working toward National Board Certification, and is an award-winning author.
“It is my distinct privilege to honor such a fine educator in our state’s public school system,” Paine said. “Drema’s dedication to her students and to incorporating 21st century learning skills into her classroom has made her worthy of this award.”
McNeal’s principal, Marsha Smith, describes her as a “creative, original and innovative” teacher who brings learning to life for her students regardless of background or learning ability. Smith says McNeal is not only an effective classroom communicator but also is a published author who still finds time to volunteer for causes that aid children and families.
McNeal’s book on autism, Kyle’s Colorful Life, has captured four national awards, including the Mom’s Choice Award Gold Medal for a children’s picture book. The book also was a finalist for the Indies Book Award and USA News Best Book Award. Her second book, Jake Learns All Eight Parts of Speech, is to be released this year.
As West Virginia’s 2011 Teacher of the Year, McNeal will receive an educational technology package valued at approximately $14,300. She was selected by a committee appointed by the state superintendent of schools to evaluate six finalists who were their county Teacher of the Year winners. Teacher of the Year, a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers, is the longest, ongoing awards program honoring classroom teachers in the country, granting its first national award in 1952. West Virginia has participated in the program since 1964.
Other finalists were Edward Zawatski, John D. Rockefeller Career Center, Hancock County; Michelle Cox, Cottageville Elementary, Jackson County; Tammy DeWitt, John Marshall High School, Marshall County; Aleta Jo Crotty, Mercer Elementary School, Mercer County; and Joseph Kincaid, Poca High School, Putnam County.
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