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Horizon names Susie Stepko as Teacher of the Year

Kindergarten teacher Susie Stepko is Teacher of the Year at Horizon Elementary School. (CONTRIBUTED)
Kindergarten teacher Susie Stepko is Teacher of the Year at Horizon Elementary School. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Kindergarten teacher Susie Stepko believes teaching is both art and science. She is Teacher of the Year at Horizon Elementary School.

“An outstanding teacher must blend together subject matter expertise and knowledge of child development with love and respect for each child,” Stepko said.

For new kindergartners, making their adjustment positive and instilling a love of school are critical. “The children become members of a learning community,” Stepko said.

Stepko feels rewarded by “seeing children mature from being dependent on an adult to learning how to function independently and work within a group. I love to compare work from August to May. Beginning to read, write and communicate opens doors to the world.”

To bring material to life, Stepko uses metaphor and examples. “Since five-year-olds are not abstract thinkers, I develop concrete examples to illustrate abstract concepts.”

When teaching letters and sounds, she tells stories “about the Letter King and his rules. As a result, children can understand and remember the letter ‘C’ uses the sounds of ‘K’ and ‘S’ because she is so shy.”

The challenge is “keeping a classroom of five-year olds happy, focused and engaged in learning not only on a daily basis but minute to minute,” Stepko said. To maintain their motivation, she “adapts daily activities to step them through the learning process.”

Students who return “and share their successes and say, ‘Thank you'” are extra special to Stepko.

She earned a bachelor’s degree at Bethany College in West Virginia and a master’s degree at East Carolina University in Greenville. In a military family, Stepko taught in Department of Defense and other schools in Jacksonville and Goldsboro, N.C.; Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii; and Montgomery.

For 10-plus years, Stepko served with the Alabama Kindergarten Conference and taught at Athens State University. The experiences allowed her “to learn from other colleagues and experts and carry ideas to my students.”

Her husband Gene Stepko retired from the U.S. Air Force. Their children Laura, Scott and Cody are Bob Jones High School alumni.

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