The 2014 West Virginia teacher of the year, Erin Sponaugle visited town Tuesday morning for a presentation at the Shepherdstown Rotary Club.
"I enjoy reaching out to the community," she said to an audience of Rotarians
During the half-hour chat, Sponaugle discussed the progress of her own education initiatives and the various projects she's spearheaded, as well as her service so far as Teacher of Year.
A fifth grade teacher at Tomahawk Intermediate School in Hedgesville, W.Va., Sponaugle is an Eastern Panhandle native who received her undergraduate degree from Shepherd University in 2003.
Originally a communications and journalism student herself, Sponaugle created a student produced newspaper, "Smoke Signals," for her students under her "WRITE" initiative.
Indicative of her inventive approach to teaching, the "WRITE," program stands for: Writing, Reporting, Integrating, Technology and Education.
Sponaugle called the project her "baby," and said it helps increase both English, language and technology literacy, while providing a fun activity for students.
Though Sponaugle began her career working in Winchester, Va. she said the decision to return to West Virginia to work was one of the most important shes made.
"I decided to come back to West Virginia and I'm glad I did," she said.
"There's a lot to be said for working in your community."
Sponaugle said receiving the Teacher of the Year designation has only strengthened her devotion to education in West Virginia.
She called initially receiving the distinction, "very surreal,"
"There are 26,000 teachers in this state and to have been chosen to represent them is very humbling," she said.
Im using this opportunity to share with others what goes on in this state,
As part of her work as Teacher of the Year, Sponaugle has started her own YouTube channel "To be the Difference WV,"which she hopes will help cast teachers in a more accurate light.
For the channel Sponaugle has been visiting area schools for the last few months, where she interviews teachers in their classrooms, offering a true life glimpse at their day-to-day work.
She called it her "small contribution," to changing people's perceptions about public schools classrooms.
Though Sponaugle says she misses being in her own classroom everyday, she's enjoyed representing West Virginia nationally and abroad.
Sponaugle mused that she will even have the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama at the White House this spring.
"I'm very proud of the teachers in West Virginia and our students and I'm really taking this opportunity to showcase them and share with the country ...all the good things that go on in West Virginia."