Julie Boyd, second-grade teacher at Hurricane Creek Elementary, was selected as the Bryant School District Teacher of the Year. She has been with Bryant Schools since 2004 and has taught second and third grade, including Gifted and Talented at Springhill Elementary. Here's more about Julie and her career in her own words.

What is your teaching philosophy? My principal philosophy of teaching is that every teacher has the moral responsibility to assist her students to develop socially and academically. I honestly believe that for some students the difference between evolving into a highly successful citizen and languishing throughout his academic and adult life can be as simple as a teacher unlocking the potential that exists in all of our students. This is the main reason that I chose to become a teacher. If I can change the life of one student during my teaching career, I will consider my career to have been a success. If I can change the lives of many, my life would have been a success.

When a child walks through my classroom door, his academic progress is usually evident by his school record that follows him; however, what is not so evident are the basic, social or emotional needs that might be impeding progress. There are so many other factors that can have an equally devastating impact on the academic achievement of many fragile and impressionable young people. This is why it is so important for me to develop a strong and personal relationship with each of my students.

Whether it is a young girl self-conscious about not having shoes that properly fit her or a young boy that is ashamed because his family cannot afford to buy him a Christmas present, it's my responsibility to determine the underlying emotional barriers that are hampering their classroom achievement. By providing an inexpensive pair of shoes or Christmas present, a level of trust and respect can be obtained. Once a student opens up emotionally, a remarkable transformation can occur. Unhampered by social stigmas or societal labels, a teacher has the opportunity to unlock a student’s potential resulting in one who can flourish and overcome many educational hurdles.

How do you motivate your students to try harder? I have found that my students perform best academically and behaviorally with positive reinforcement. Instead of focusing on inappropriate behavior I try brag on students that are modeling appropriate behavior. I am always amazed at how easily a sticker chart can turn negative behavior into positive behavior. The most efficient rewards are simple things like being the line leader for the day, a positive phone call to mom or dad, or having lunch with me. If a child knows you love them they will do anything to please you.

Do you have a favorite memory? My favorite memory is when a student who started second grade reading at a kindergarten level and finished on second grade level said, “Ms. Boyd, thank you for teaching me to read and not giving up on me." I can’t think of a better compliment to be given to me by any student.

What would you tell a first year teacher? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I think many teachers would agree that their first year was one of their hardest. Every year gets better and better.

What have you learned from other teachers? I have learned so much from my colleagues. The best thing about working with other teachers is we all see things from a different perspective therefore we teach the same skill differently. I work with an incredible team of second grade teachers. We collaborate and share resources which help us to better equip our students to succeed.

What advice can you share with parents? There is nothing more beneficial to students than parental involvement in the educational process. When a bond can be established between the teacher and the parents, it is typically predictable that the student will succeed. Unfortunately, it is equally predictable that detached and uninvolved parents can have a devastating impact on classroom accomplishments. When this type of parent is present, it is incumbent on the teacher to take a keen interest in the development of her children.

If you could change one thing in the education system, what would it be? I would like to see less emphasis on national and state testing.