Ashby Lee teacher named division’s Teacher of the Year

Katie Tusing, Ashby Lee Elementary School second grade teacher, helps Evan Martz, left, of New Market, and Kimberly Ramirez-Barron, right, of Mount Jackson, both 8, with math. Tusing is this year's Shenandoah County Public Schools Division Teacher of the Year. Rich Cooley/Daily

QUICKSBURG – On Monday morning, Kathryn “Katie” Tusing, a second grade teacher at Ashby Lee Elementary School,  walked among students who sat on the classroom floor in pairs as they filled in a math worksheet, looking for similarities and differences in sequences of numbers that are written on small cards spread out on the floor.

“Which of those numbers is the least?” Tusing asked, looking at 7-year-old Dylon Lutz.

Dylon points to a small card with 125 typed on it.

“Do you agree?” Tusing asked Acelin Mason, an 8-year-old girl in the group.

“Yep,” Acelin said.

“What number is next?” Tusing asked.

After working with Dylon and Acelin, she moved on to other groups of students, making sure everyone was participating in getting the math exercises done.

Tusing has had an eventful year.  A year ago she was involved in an accident that changed her life.  Recently, she was honored by the school division by being named  Shenandoah County Public Schools Teacher of the Year.  She will advance to the state competition for the Mary V. Bicouvaris Teacher of the Year award.

“That night blew me out of the water,” Tusing said of receiving the award. “We are very fortunate here. We have very talented and respected people living in this county. People that I hold in high regard and respect. You hear their accomplishments and it’s humbling.”

Dylon said they were told the news of Tusing’s award. “We clapped,” he said.

Acelin quietly nodded affirmation that Tusing is a good teacher.

Last year, in January, Tusing was involved in an accident that caused the amputation of her leg below her right knee. She and her boyfriend Dillon Frazier were awakened in the early morning hours to what she described as a “crunching noise.” She went to the window and saw that there had been a car crash right outside the house. Someone had hit a utility pole.

When she went outside to offer aid, the guide wire of the utility pole snapped. It encircled her right leg and broke her tibia and fibula.

She now uses her prosthesis as a visual teaching aide in her classroom.

“We talked about how everyone has something, some things are not just as visible as mine. I also tell kids sometimes it is more hurtful to stare then just ask. Most of the time they will answer your question,” Tusing said.

Ashby Lee principal Steven Povlish knows Tusing’s work first hand.

“Whenever we think of our best and most successful professional educators, two characteristics often come to mind: perseverance and adaptability. Anyone who knows Katie will tell you that while she is an excellent teacher, probably her greatest attribute is her positive, can-do attitude in which she embraces her duties both in and out of the classroom, and it comes as no surprise that Katie approached her life-changing accident in the same manner.”

Povlish commended Tusing for her strong classroom technique. Her welcoming, interactive classroom management system and hands-on activities are a few of her strengths, he said.

“Katie truly approaches the essential needs of each child,” Povlish stated.

Other division winners this year are:

• Erin McMahon, new teacher of the year. She is a special education teacher at W.W. Robinson Elementary School in Woodstock.

• Joanne Thompson, employee of the year.  She is the bookkeeper/ instructional assistant at North Fork Middle School in Quicksburg.

• Donna Gessner, Sheila Kibler, Kelly Stinnett, team of the year. They are members of the sixth grade math team at Signal Knob Middle School in Strasburg.

Teachers of the year for each school are:

• Lucas Long, an automotive instructor at Triplett Tech in Mount Jackson.

• Katherine Erickson,  kindergarten teacher at W.W. Robinson Elementary.

• Donna Gessner, a math teacher at Signal Knob Middle School.

• Megan Woods, an English teacher at Stonewall Jackson High School in Quicksburg.

 • Daniel Tusing, a math teacher at Strasburg High School.

• Rebecca May, an English teacher at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School in Woodstock.

• Tammy Kibler, a first grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Strasburg.

• Tripp Ennis, a librarian at Central High School in Woodstock.

• Tara Brinkley,  a seventh-grade math teacher at North Fork Middle School.