2021 Banneker Teacher of the Year
Valerie Dawn Bolles
Benjamin Banneker Elementary School
K-6 iSpark Teacher
What factors influenced your decision to become a teacher? Identify what you consider to be your greatest contributions to and accomplishments in education.
As a young child, I always excelled in school and typically learned quicker and earlier than expected. As the youngest child in my family, I grew up watching my older siblings struggle with their learning and education due to various reasons from ADHD to sever learning disabilities which, at that time, were unrealized and often undiagnosed. Watching my loved ones struggle through their school years was extremely heartbreaking for me and I often wished there was something I could do to help them. When I was 8, I learned first hand how my siblings felt as our life took a dramatic and tragic change when our dad died, and we moved to a new state. During that traumatic time, I had a hard time dealing with all the changes going on in my life and therefore, did not apply myself to my learning at my new school as I had in the past. This resulted in my teachers placing me in groups that were well below my level. It did not take long for me to lose interest in school due to my boredom. It took several years and a handful of wonderful, loving, devoted teachers to rekindle my love of learning. Thanks to those teachers, my desire to help those who struggled with learning was revitalized and renewed my devotion to become a teacher. To honor those teachers who gave so much to me, I have dedicated my career to educating my students while simultaneously showing them compassion and understanding. Every day, I attempt to create a classroom culture that educates and engages my students in conjunction with strengthening their self-esteem and inspiring them to achieve their greatest dreams.
Describe a project or initiative that you have led or been involved with that contributed to increasing equity in education and opportunity for students in your school and/or community. What was your roll in this project and what was the impact?
For the last couple of years, my school has created a living museum for Black History month. The museum provided students an opportunity to study important times and historical people that substantially contributed to the African American culture. As an Encore teacher, I had the privilege of assisting the classroom teachers with providing the necessary instruction to students and supporting them as they performed their roles. The impact of this project was beyond measurable for all participants and observers. It was immensely pleasurable to see the growth of our students in the knowledge of their culture and history as well as in their skills, confidence, and beliefs in themselves.
- Teacher of the Year