Teacher of the Year started life questioning her worth

By Lynn R. Parks

One of Thonia Waters earliest memories is waking in the middle of the night and seeing her mother lifting what looked like a trash bag through the open window. I asked her, What are you doing and she told me to go back to sleep, Waters said.

When Waters woke up the next morning, she learned that her mother had abandoned her and her siblings.

Imagine your grandmother crying, she said. Imagine going into foster care, and wondering, Who will love you if your mother doesnt She also described as an elementary school student being moved into an advanced reading group in another classroom for more challenging work. The children in that group, as well as her new teacher, didnt greet her with open arms, she said.

I didnt feel welcome, she said. I began to withdraw and was reluctant to talk. She was moved back to her original reading group. Waters survived both ordeals and eventually learned to thrive in school. Last week, she was honored as the Seaford School Districts teacher of the year.

I have never observed a more capable or gifted teacher, said Kelly Carey, principal of Frederick Douglass Elementary School, where Waters is a teacher. She has the talent to reach out to all of her students and make them feel safe, respected and smart.

Waters told the teachers, former teachers, administrators and school board members gathered at the Heritage Shore clubhouse in Bridgeville last Wednesday that her performance in school wasnt always stellar. When I was 9, I decided that I wasnt going to take any stuff, she said. If I had to be tough, then so be it.

But her instructors had other ideas.

Those darn teachers, they simply wouldnt let me go, she said. Over and over, they told me, You must begin to make better choices. Gradually, she said, she learned the value of those good choices as well as of hard work. All of that led me to the teacher that I am today, she said. I believe in giving all children the opportunity to see how much they can grow in a school year.

Waters now is vying for Delawares teacher of the year, who will be honored Oct. 18, during a banquet at Dover Downs. She was one of six candidates for the Seaford School Districts top honor. Also recognized during last weeks ceremony were school teachers of the year Alyson Bates, Seaford High School, Kathy Desautels, Blades Elementary, Alison Smolecki, West Seaford, Ashley Wheatley, Central Elementary, and Jennifer Bower, Seaford Middle School.

Superintendent Russ Knorr told the crowd that the teacher of the year banquet is one of the neatest activities that we have in the Seaford School District.

This year, the banquet was designed to honor teachers who have demonstrated an ability to light a fire in their students, he added.

Cards at each seat read, A teacher ignites the fire that fuels a students thirst for curiosity, knowledge and wisdom.

Tonight, we recognize our best and brightest, Seaford School Board member Katy Kimpton said. They are teaching our most valuable resource, our children.

Our teachers help our children to find their passion. The board of education is so appreciative of all that they do.

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