Ramsey teacher named innovator of the year at Gateway
When Ramsey Elementary Principal Katie Friend saw a student riding a bicycle down the hallway dressed in traditional Dutch garb this school year, she was befuddled for a moment — until she realized who his teacher was.
Whether it's cultural learning with props or a tutoring program at the elementary level, third-grade teacher Holly Lewis never is short on ideas, said co-workers and administrators.
Lewis was new to Ramsey Elementary this school year, and so were her teaching methods, Friend said.
“I'd see or hear something out of the ordinary and I'd think to myself, ‘What room is that student in?'” Friend said. “And then I'd realize, ‘ah, it's one of Lewis' kids.'”
District officials named Lewis innovator of the year last month and presented her with a check for $2,000 to purchase classroom supplies.
Lewis said while it might sound corny, “I love getting up in the morning, and I love coming to my job.”
Her husband, Jesse, said he can attest to her enthusiasm for teaching based in part on the vocabulary of their 5-year-old son. “Whenever I tell my buddies some of the words he says, they're like ‘I don't know what that means,'” Jesse Lewis said, laughing.
School administrators narrowed K-12 teachers to a group of finalists for the award and collectively chose a winner.
University Park Elementary Principal Brian Werner described Lewis' classroom as a plethora of innovation, which includes a bulletin board on the wall that reads “Mrs. Lewis, I want to learn …”
Throughout the school year, students posted questions or ideas about any subject that intrigued them and Lewis would incorporate their requests into a lesson plan, Werner said.
Werner said students interviewed about Lewis' class gave the following responses:
“I used to not like math, and now I think it's really awesome.”
“If you get stuck on something, she won't leave you behind.”
Lewis said she decided to become a teacher as a junior in college.
“I can't fathom doing anything else,” said Lewis, “I know this is what I'm supposed to do.”
Lewis, of Bethel Park, taught 10 years at Gateway High School and eight years as a fourth-grade teacher at Evergreen Elementary before she relocated by choice this year to Ramsey Elementary to teach third grade.
She said the key to staying motivated could be a change of scenery.
“I have 19 years of experience, but I'm like a first-year teacher in a new grade,” Lewis said. “I don't think I could ever teach the same thing for too long, because you become complacent.”
Fellow educators agree that Lewis is anything but complacent.
“I have the distinct honor of seeing Holly in action every day,” Friend said. “I'm exhausted after she leaves my office, so I can only imagine how exhausted she is.”
Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or firstname.lastname@example.org.