UE Recognizes Outstanding Educators of the Year

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University of Evansville presented four individuals in Vanderburgh County with Outstanding Educator of the Year awards. Each educator received a surprise announcement within their school as part of UE’s 30th annual presentation of awards.

The competition, which is specific to Vanderburgh County, recognizes current classroom teachers and building principals in grades K-12 with at least three years of experience. The Outstanding Educator of the Year awards are sponsored by UE, Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union, and the Evansville Courier & Press.

The following awards were presented on Wednesday:

Outstanding Elementary Educator of the Year: Cathy Hoffman, fifth grade teacher at Delaware Elementary School

Cathy has been an educator for 16 years, nine of which have been in her current role.

As a teacher, Cathy believes building relationships with students and their families is essential to the profession. She always strives to make her students feel “safe and secure” in the knowledge that she is there to support them in every situation.

“My motto in the classroom is, ‘We don’t do easy. We make easy happen through hard work,'” says Cathy. “Many students want to give up if something is hard. But the relationships I have built with them allow me to show them they can achieve these things.”

When schools suddenly closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC) asked many teachers to create lessons that could be aired on WNIN for local students without cable or internet access. Cathy carried out this strategy the rest of the semester for her fifth graders so they could feel like they were still part of the classroom.

When summer arrived, she created new lessons for third grade summer school sessions. Cathy knew that her work created a lasting impact when students throughout the community would approach her in public, sharing that they recognized her from the educational lessons on WNIN. “During a time when there were many unknowns about the upcoming school year, this experience gave me the extra push I needed to mentally prepare for my classes,” she said.

Cathy says one of her main goals is to be in tune with her students each day, which allows her to build trust and encourage them.

“In my classroom, I make it a priority to have a conversation with each student, each day,” she said. “Whether it’s about their family, sports, or even favorite foods, I listen to anything they want to share. In return, I tell them about my own life outside of teaching. This reminds students that I’m not just their teacher, but I am also someone who is in their corner and cheering them on.”

Outstanding Middle School Educator of the Year: Gayle Mooney, sixth grade teacher at Scott School

Gayle Mooney has been a teacher for 28 years, and for the last nine, she has taught sixth grade math and science.

Over the last two decades, Gayle has served as a sponsor and coordinator for several organizations, including student council, cheerleading, technology, and book fairs.

Gayle’s teaching philosophy is based upon building relationships with each of her students. “I want my students to know that I care about them, respect them, and want the best for them,” she said. “Students want to feel respected and valued, and I believe my success depends on the success of my students.”

On top of their personal success, Gayle also strives to make learning enjoyable for her classes. She encourages her students to always ask for help when it is needed so they will learn to enjoy coming to school each day.

“I feel like I am fortunate to be in the classroom and learn with my students as they learn from me,” Gayle said.

Outstanding High School Educator of the Year: Peter Barringer, English teacher at Harrison High School

Peter Barringer has been a teacher for seven years, and he has been teaching English at Harrison High School for the last five years.

Teaching the full spectrum of English classes, Peter says that each class demands a different skill set and unique approach. He also teaches in the Shepard Leadership and Law Academy, a rigorous four-year program that combine social studies and English. “This program has stretched my abilities as a teacher, and it has provided an additional opportunity for growth in my skill set,” he said.

Peter says his educational philosophy is very simple: “I believe all students are capable of learning and succeeding.” This principle guides his daily instruction, although he says that is just one aspect of his job. “I relish the opportunity to talk with my students on a personal level, because students often apply themselves in class more regularly when I engage with them about hobbies or extracurricular activities,” Peter said.

To put his philosophy into practice, Peter uses three strategies: 1) build both academic and personal relationships with students, especially those who have not experienced much academic success in the past; 2) respond quickly to student struggles through constant feedback and conversations; and 3) provide quality instruction that reaches the needs of all students.

In addition to teaching English, Peter serves as a coach for the speech team and recorder for the Harrison Social-Emotional Learning Team. He also established the Harrison Board Game Club to further engage with students.

Outstanding Building Principal of the Year: Susie Masterson, Principal of Evansville Christian School

Susie Masterson has been an educator for 44 years. This is her 34th year as principal for Evansville Christian School, where she oversees pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.

Throughout her career, Susie has been an elementary school teacher, principal, adjunct faculty member at the graduate level, and a professional development trainer. She has also served overseas in Afghanistan and Uganda, training teachers and planting schools.

“In every situation, I have been challenged and equipped for the next opportunity,” said Susie, “And that’s what it means to be a lifelong learner.”

Since 1988, Susie has served in various roles with ECS. This year is a bittersweet one for her, as the elementary school campus prepares to say goodbye to its Bethel Church location and move to a new, freestanding location in Warrick County (near Crossroads Christian Church). “I have loved working on the design and building of this new space as well as planning for new procedures and programming,” said Susie. “This will create a positive school culture for our K-6 students, where our school’s mission will thrive.”

Susie wrote a life mission statement to guide her both professionally and personally. It reads, “Commit to serving God by continuing a spiritual legacy to my children and grandchildren; using my God-gifts of teaching and leading; and pursuing connections that serve as an outreach for the Gospel.” Susie has always aspired to be the leader that she needed at various seasons in her life. Today, she invests in teachers so they can invest in their students.

In nominating Susie for an Outstanding Educator Award, an individual said that she is “the epitome of a selfless leader who is teacher-focused and believes in partnering with parents to positively impact each student’s learning.”

Students at the University of Evansville shape powerful and enduring change. UE is the first in Indiana to be designated as an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, and its changemaking culture empowers students to improve the world around them as UE Changemakers. UE has an array of majors in business; engineering; the arts and sciences; and health science programs. UE has a diverse student body that represents 44 states and 52 countries. U.S. News & World Report recognizes UE as the #4 Best College in the Midwest among private schools. For more information, please visit evansville.edu.