Jennifer Ruby, a sixth-grade teacher from Bell Avenue Elementary School (Robla S.D.), and Stephanie Smith, a 3rd-4th grade looped classroom teacher from Oak Ridge Elementary School (Sacramento City U.S.D.), were honored by the Sacramento Scottish Rite Bodies of Freemasonry at a special event on April 19. The two Sacramento County Teachers of the Year 2016 spoke to the gathering about what inspires them, what keeps them passionate and focused on their students.
Smith shared that growing up in a small town, school worked for her. Most things in her life were not working, but school did. When she came to Sacramento, she found herself in a classroom where school didn't work for most of her students. Many factors, such as empty stomachs and violence in the neighborhood, were contributing to student problems at school. She is passionate about changing that, she is making school work for her students.
Ruby shared that school was not a successful time in her life. Although she was bright, elementary teachers did not connect with her. She finds she can connect to lower-performing students because she was one of those and can start the conversation from a different perspective. Ruby said, “Teaching is hard. Fostering change is hard, but I am a teacher in order to create positive change in our world. I am aware that my abilities to change the world are quite small in scale, but I believe that my commitment to my school community is a place to start. It is my goal as a teacher to create a small army of change-makers to send out into the world. Each student needs to understand that they do make a difference, to see themselves as agents of change, and to be empowered to make changes within themselves and beyond. I want them to see that they matter. They matter in our classroom, our school community, and in our world…I want all my students to see education as a means for change and to become lifelong learners.” Ruby and Smith were each presented with a commemorative trophy by representatives from the Scottish Rite.
Historically, the Grand Master of Freemasons for the State of California has declared April as Public Schools Month each year. This tradition started in 1920 when Public Schools Week was first introduced. The occasion later became Public Schools Month and has been a yearly tradition ever since. Public Schools Month supports quality public education that is free to all citizens, and emphasizes public education as a fundamental asset in our country.
On April 16, the Sacramento County District Teachers of the Year 2016 were honored during Teacher Appreciation Night when the Sacramento River Cats host the Salt Lake Bees at Raley Field. On February 19, before thousands of cheering and supportive fans, the teachers were also honored on the court at Sleep Train Arena during the Sacramento Kings/Denver Nuggets game.
This year, the Sacramento County Teachers of the Year program is presented by SCOE in partnership with the Sacramento Kings, the Sacramento River Cats, Intel Corporation, Supercuts, the SCOE School of Education, and the Sacramento Scottish Rite Bodies of Freemasonry.