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By Preston Knight -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- There is video proof that Annmarie Noonan was destined to become a teacher.
On a middle school trip to Washington, a class clown named Matt was acting up in a restaurant during breakfast. Before the teacher, Steve Parsons, could step in, Noonan reprimanded her classmate and told him to be mature.
"I can still remember her saying to him, 'This is not the way you behave in a restaurant!'" Parsons recalled via email. "Thinking back I can see Annmarie was born to be a teacher. And by the way ... I have that incident on video tape."
Shenandoah County Public Schools did not request that tape upon hiring Noonan three years ago, and officials relied on her popularity among pupils and staff at Signal Knob Middle School instead of old video in naming her the division's teacher of the year last week. Noonan, who teaches sixth-grade social studies, said it was in Parsons' class at a school in the northwest suburbs of Chicago that got her thinking she should be a teacher. She was 11.
"He had such joy and he loved what he did," said Noonan, 26. "He was always energetic. It was hard to be bored in his class."
Parsons said Noonan was a high achiever in a class full of them. He was happy when she told him she was studying to become a teacher at James Madison University, where she received her undergraduate and master's degrees, and immediately knew she would be a great one.
Parsons' teaching philosophy meshes with what Noonan strives to accomplish -- getting pupils energized about the subject at hand.
"American history is endlessly fascinating," Parsons said in his email. "So many great stories -- heroes and villains, tragedies and triumphs. History is naturally exciting. If a student says they don't like history, they find it boring, it's because of the teacher. The teacher got in the way. Either the teacher doesn't know the subject very well or made the classroom too bureaucratic, too many rules.
"I am naturally enthusiastic about history, but part of being a good teacher is being a good actor. If you don't act enthusiastic about the subject you are teaching, no way students will be."
Noonan takes that to heart. One of her favorite things to do is twisting the lyrics of songs her pupils like into historical context. For that, "The Real Slim Shady" becomes "The Real Ms. Noonan," for one student who loves Eminem, but hates history.
Noonan also asks her students about their favorite television shows and will dub words from clips to have characters talking about history.
"I want all of my students to be engaged," she said. "Then [they think]: 'She's really having a good time. She wants to be here.' I can't teach anything else because I don't want to teach anything else."
Last summer, Noonan created a seminar to study coal, and along with five pupils, the group visited an operating mountaintop removal mine in Whitesville, W.Va., and included that trip in a documentary about the effects of producing this type of energy. It is further video evidence that she was meant to be a teacher.
"I'm tired, and I think that's good," Noonan said. "That means I gave it my all this year."