DOVER -- Wendy Turner, a second grade teacher at Mount Pleasant Elementary School in the Brandywine School District, was named Delaware's 2017 State Teacher of the Year.
Gov. Jack Markell made the announcement Tuesday in front of 500 invited guests at the Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center in Dover.
Teaching was not Turner's original plan. After starting her career working in a large public accounting firm, she found herself unfulfilled, she said in her application: "I just did not want to work in corporate America anymore "¦ being a parent greatly changed my perspective and was a significant factor in influencing my deep desire to do something meaningful."
She went back to school, taking night classes to earn her master's degree in elementary education while continuing to work full-time. At age 40, she became a teacher.
As an educator she strives to make learning relevant to life outside the classroom, teaching every lesson through a real-world lens.
"In each subject area, if I present opportunities for students to connect the work they do in class to the real world, students overflow with enthusiasm," she said. "Writing about current issues that reflect students' personal beliefs has meaning and passion. Learning the science of how plans grow is more compelling when students cultivate plants in an outdoor garden."
She also is a 2016 state finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. She previously has been honored by the Delaware Valley Green Building Council as a Green Schools "Changemaker" and by the Delaware Nature Society as Outstanding Environmental Educator.
Turner will represent all teachers in Delaware. She will address community groups, business leaders, legislators, and educational organizations to inform the public about the status of Delaware schools. She also will become Delaware's candidate in the National Teacher of the Year Program, a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers sponsored by Voya Financial.
By action of the General Assembly, she will receive a $5,000 grant to use for the educational benefit of her students, as well two personal grants totaling an additional $5,000. The remaining 19 school district/charter candidates each will receive a personal grant of $2,000.
Turner also will receive: a $1,000 grant for educational/classroom use from American Institutes for Research; grants from the Delaware State Education Association, the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce and the Delaware Professional Standards Board; a State of Delaware Teacher of the Year commemorative plate from the Division of Motor Vehicles; free graduate-level courses from Delaware's higher education institutions, including a full doctorate program from Wilmington University and University of Delaware; a gold watch from the Delaware State Teachers of the Year Association; a 10-karat gold ring from Jostens; and lunch in Washington D.C. with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper.
Turner's selection as Delaware's top educator makes her the 53rd Teacher of the Year since Delaware's recognition program began.