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WASHINGTON, DC (August 7, 2013) – The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence today announced SHELLEY DALPIAZ, an Algebra teacher at Cane Bay High School in Summerville, South Carolina, as the American Board National Teacher of the Year. This award honors an American Board alum who exemplifies the organization’s belief that the inspiration to teach comes from a commitment to the community and the desire to make a difference.

“A career-changer and former microbiologist, Shelley brings a unique, invaluable, and inspirational perspective into the classroom,” said SHAWN ARÉVALO McCOLLOUGH, President and CEO of the American Board. “She truly shows students that acquiring STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills matters and provides greater opportunities, from post-secondary education to career.”

Dalpiaz worked as a microbiologist at the University of Utah before her husband’s military career moved them to South Carolina. Beginning her career in the classroom as a volunteer, she saw how teachers inspire learning every day. This inspiration started even earlier in her life, said Dalpiaz: “I had a wonderful math teacher in high school who made all the difference with his smile and patience as he taught our math class. He inspired me to become that kind of a teacher, the one that loves going to his or her job each day with a smile.”

Shelley Delpiaz from Summerville South Carolina“Ms. Dalpiaz is an outstanding educator, and the Berkeley County School District is incredibly proud of her for earning this immense honor and achievement,” stated Dr. RODNEY THOMPSON, superintendent of schools. “The American Board National Teacher of the Year award reflects the simple and important truth that the most effective educators—those who make a lasting and positive impact—do not always come to our field through the traditional training and certification processes. I applaud Ms. Dalpiaz for her relentless efforts and commitment to improving the lives of her students. ”

“Shelley Dalpiaz is a fabulous teacher who is a cornerstone in our math department at Cane Bay High School,” said Dr. LEE WESTBERRY, Cane Bay’s principal. “Shelley always has a positive attitude as she works diligently to find ways to help her students learn. She makes learning fun and relevant, and students respond well to her. We love and support Shelley, as this award is much deserved!”

“I want to combine my love for math and science to help kids get away from the fact that math is boring,” said Dalpiaz. “Showing students the real life applications of math, how they use it on a daily basis, and why it is important is why I go to class each and every day.”

Dalpiaz gained her teacher certification through the American Board program, a provider of alternative teacher certification in South Carolina. “It gave me the opportunity to become a teacher without having to start from scratch,” said Dalpiaz. “I was able to take on a job as a long term substitute, to obtain hands-on classroom experience while studying for the test at my own pace and on my own time.”

“The most rewarding part of my job is watching a student’s face light up as they say, ‘I get it,’” said Dalpiaz. “Often times students enter my classroom and will let me know up-front they do not like math or are not confident in their math skills; I will even hear this from parents. By the end of the semester, though, my students have mastered the content needed for the current class and are well prepared for their next math class. Seeing their confidence change from what they believed on day one, to knowing what they can now do, brings joy to my heart. These students are the most rewarding part of my teaching career.”

“Many American Board candidates are career changers who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the classroom,” said McCollough, a former superintendent of schools in Georgia and Arizona. “I understand the challenge of recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers. More importantly, I recognize the value of finding teachers like Shelley and the other state winners who understand and care about their local community.”

National Finalists & State Winners

Edie Flores, American Board Florida Teacher of the Year
Edie Flores directs the Eckerd Youth Challenge Program at a juvenile justice facility in Brooksville, Florida. Flores also teaches three classes, and over 80 percent of her students made average gains of 1.5 grade levels during their six to nine months in the program, far exceeding the state average. “In an effort to build positive supporting relationships with children, Edie plans lessons that engage the multiple learning styles of her students,” said nominator Keith Phillipson. “You will always find her students actively engaged in the lesson.”

Sara Layton, American Board Utah Teacher of the Year
Sara Layton is an English teacher at Open High School of Utah/Mountain Heights Academy in West Jordan, Utah. Layton was an English professor when she decided to pursue a secondary teaching license. “I noticed that freshmen were coming into college with a lack of basic writing skills necessary to succeed across curriculua,” said Layton. “Teaching at a high school level allows me to prepare students, particularly seniors, for the important transitions to college and to the workplace.” As one of eight educators world-wide to be awarded a fellowship from the Institute for the Study of Knowledge and Meaning in Education (ISKME), Layton plans to “meet with educators across the world to discuss, assess, and create open educational resources to be shared with other educators on an international scale.”

Aaron Prejean, American Board Mississippi Teacher of the Year

Aaron Prejean serves as a model of character and responsibility to his students as one of the first teachers to arrive and one of the last to leave each day at Hardy Middle School in Jackson, Mississippi. He uses classroom technology such as interactive polls to engage his students and increased their achievement levels by over 15 percent in his first year. Antonius Caldwell, who nominated him, said, “Mr. Prejean’s legal education allows him to provide guidance and perspective to students in dire need of a moral compass.”

Birdie Pruessner, American Board Missouri Teacher of the Year
Birdie Pruessner is a math teacher at City Academy in St. Louis, Missouri. She also teaches and plans curriculum for a variety of grade levels and subjects, including gardening and sustainability. “Ms. Pruessner has the ability to work with all age ranges of youth,” said Kelly Tyson, Pruessner’s nominator. “She adapts to age-appropriate educational needs with ease and demonstrates an outstanding ability to adapt quickly to unforeseeable changes.”

Geoff Williams, American Board Idaho Teacher of the Year

Geoff Williams teaches a variety of math and science classes at Century High School (CHS), in Pocatello, Idaho, including AP Physics, Honors Chemistry, and Algebra 2. The CHS administration, including Sheryl Brockett who nominated Williams, has entrusted him with large projects including working through issues with at-risk students to ensure success in the classroom. According to Brockett, Geoff is “skilled in a variety of instructional strategies to maximize student learning and to support both the remedial learner and the advanced learner.”

For more information on all the winners, click here.


Media Inquiries
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Established by the U.S. Department of Education in 2001, the American Board is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to building strong communities by preparing, certifying, and supporting teachers. Through a flexible and cost-effective certification program, the American Board has awarded more than 4,000 teacher certifications across 12 states.