TEACHER OF THE YEAR: Sara Foley Teague’s class is like family

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, January 4, 2023

This article is part of a series by The Vicksburg Post, in partnership with the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce, featuring each of the nominees for teacher of the year honors.

Sara Foley Teague, a teacher at the Academy of Innovation, treats everyone like family.

“I try and make my classroom a place where students feel they belong. My classroom is always a big family,” Teague said.

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Teague is a finalist for the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce’s Educator of the Year award. The chamber will select and announce one elementary and one secondary teacher of the year at the chamber luncheon on Feb. 15. The winner of each award will receive $1,000 from Ameristar Casino and the runner-up for each award will receive $500 from Mutual Credit Union.

Teague’s teaching career began at Warren Central Intermediate School, where she only taught for half of a year. For the past eight years, she has been at the Academy of Innovation. Teague received her Bachelor’s degree in kinesiology with an emphasis in teaching and coaching from Mississippi State University.

In Teague’s classroom, she wants her students to feel like they belong.

“Middle school is a challenging time. Teenagers are spending most of that time trying to determine where to fit in. I try and make my classroom a place where students feel they belong,” Teague said in her Educator of the Year application.

She uses her teaching lessons not only to educate her students for academic success but through social-emotional learning.

“Teaching empathy and acceptance to my students through ELA content keeps them aware of the world they live in and helps them to develop compassion for others and encourages productive citizenship,” she said.

An example of a social-emotional lesson is explaining how the events of Sept. 11, 2001, impacted different aspects of life over the past 20 years, such as the various new careers and technology that developed from those events.

Teague believes that in order to reach these students academically, she has to take the time to show kindness and encourage her students to stick up for one another. One way she demonstrates this teamwork is where her fellow pod teachers.

“I frequently collaborate and even teach together with my social studies and cyber foundation colleagues, and occasionally with my Math, Science and Robotics colleagues as well,” Teague said.

She stated that co-teaching with the social studies teacher gives her the ability to apply her ELA teaching through current events and culturally responsive education. When she works with the Cyber Foundation teacher, her students are able to see how ELA is used for future careers and computer applications. Her fellow pod teachers even assist her with teaching social-emotional lessons such as the effects of Sept. 11, 2001, as mentioned earlier.

Teague’s overall strategy to help with student achievement is “motivating students to do their (work) making a connection with them and showing them they belong and they can be successful,” she said.