By Kim Walter
Between her history in Frederick County and her track record of student success, it seems fitting that Cindy Petty has been named Frederick County Public Schools' 2014 Teacher of the Year.
This is the third year that Petty, a first grade teacher, has been Armel Elementary School's Teacher of the Year. She was also a Frederick County Teacher of the Year Finalist in 2009.
Petty is no stranger to the school system, as she was once a student in it. She graduated from Sherando High School, and realized that she wanted to pursue a teaching career when she was a student at Bass-Hoover Elementary School.
The 2013-2014 school year will be Petty's 11th with the division.
When Petty's name was announced during Frederick County Public Schools' convocation Wednesday morning, she was "in awe."
"There I was, standing in front of not only my colleagues, but also a number of my former teachers," she said. "It was truly an honor to receive this recognition from them."
Petty earned a bachelor of science degree in interdisciplinary studies with a minor in early childhood education from Austin Peay State University. There, she had her first student teaching assignment in a first grade classroom.
After school, Petty's first job was also teaching first grade, and she's stuck with the grade level ever since.
In particular, Petty enjoys playing such an important role in the young students' education and development.
"I get to really introduce these kids to reading and writing, which has such an impact on everything they learn moving forward," she said. "Each student has different timing when it comes to those subjects, so it's so exciting as a teacher when you see that light bulb go off. It's like the world begins to make more sense to them when they can read and write."
As an elementary school student in the county, Petty remembers a teacher who constantly celebrated student accomplishments, large or small. That was one thing she said she'll always remember, and tries to use every day in her own classroom.
At Sherando, Petty had an English teacher who wasn't necessarily "warm and fuzzy."
However, Petty said that after graduation, the teacher came up to her and gave her a big hug. The teacher then proceeded to tell her how proud he was of her.
"I'll never forget that moment," she said. "That's what I'm all about now, making strong relationships with each and every student."
In addition to teaching, Petty is passionate about assisting other teachers and giving back to her community. She has served as a mentor for student teachers as well as first-year teachers at Armel Elementary School. She's also led staff development workshops, facilitated problem-solving and child study groups, served on curriculum development teams and worked on textbook adoption committees.
"I love being a part of making decisions that impact all the county's students and teachers," Petty said. "I just had one of my children graduate, and I've got another in elementary school and another who's about to start, so this school system means a lot to me."
As Teacher of the Year, Petty received a plaque; a gold signet ring featuring the school division's logo encircled by the words "Teacher of the Year;" a notebook computer and carrying case; and $3,000, which can be used for instructional materials, supplies or travel.
Petty said she hopes to start working toward a master's degree now that her children are growing up. Even if she earns the higher level of education, she would still want to always do something that allowed her to have direct contact with students.
"I know that teachers make such a great impact," she said. "I never want to lose that part of me."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org