Honored Teacher Essay Contest Asks “How Has a Teacher Made a Difference in Your Life?”

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January 07, 2019
When the winner of the 2018 Robert B. and Gladys Hopkins Strickler Honored Teacher Award was announced, Jerry Philp was not expecting to hear his name. “Last year’s award was a great surprise for me,” Philp recalls.
Philp teaches band at Skyline Middle School. His classroom sits at the end of a hallway, out of earshot of all but one other room. Except for his students, not many people ever see, or even hear, what goes on everyday while he teaches.
“Parents and staff get to see the fruits of our labor at concerts,” says Philp, “but the day to day stuff – the important interactions and routines – can easily get lost.”
Philp was among eight area teachers who were honored by their students last February at a ceremony that highlighted the winning essays in the 2018 Robert B. and Gladys Hopkins Strickler Honored Teacher Essay Contest. Sponsored annually by Massanutten Regional Library, the Honored Teacher Essay Contest is dedicated to celebrating the inspiring influence of our area’s educators on the lives of their students.
Jerry Philp was honored in an essay by his student, Zahria Ford, who wrote about her teacher’s use of humor in the classroom and how his attention to the individual needs of students leads each one to be a better musician. “It was great to be acknowledged by one of the students,” Philp remarks. “We are here for the kids and it was gratifying to know I was being singled out by them, not for a concert or the product of my work but instead for the process, the everyday.”
For Philp, winning the Honored Teacher Award has been gratifying, but it also brings a responsibility. “The award put another skip in my step for a while, and makes me smile every time I glance at it in my office,” says Philp, but it “also reminds me that everyday, in every class, there is an opportunity to inspire, reach, and help another student.”
Essays are now being accepted for the 23rd annual Robert B. and Gladys Hopkins Strickler Honored Teacher Essay Contest. The contest is open to all students, kindergarten through high school, who live or go to school in the city of Harrisonburg or Rockingham or Page Counties. Students are free to write about a current or past teacher. Each essay should be the original work of the student and should follow the official contest guidelines, available at the MRL website: www.mrlib.org/honored.  
Members of the Kiwanis Club of Harrisonburg will serve as judges for the contest. The judges will choose the top two essays in each of the following grade ranges: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. For entries in K-8th grades, the winning essay in each category will receive $125, and the runner-up will receive $75. For high school, the winning essay will receive $250, and the runner-up will receive $100. In addition, one of the teachers honored in the winning essays from all categories will be selected “Honored Teacher of the Year” and will receive $1,000 to enhance her or his teaching.
Essays can be submitted online at www.mrlib.org/honored, delivered to any MRL branch, or mailed to Massanutten Regional Library, Honored Teachers Contest, 174 S. Main St., Harrisonburg VA 22801. Hardcopy submissions must be accompanied by an official entry form, which can be downloaded from www.mrlib.org/honored. Deadline for entry is Saturday, February 9 at 4 PM.
A reception recognizing the winning essays and the teachers honored by those essays will be held on Thursday, February 21, at 7:00 PM, at the Central Library in downtown Harrisonburg.
Since its founding in 1997, the Honored Teachers Essay Contest has received nearly 5,000 student entries celebrating special teachers who made a difference. The contest has awarded a total of more than $10,000 to teachers to enhance their work, as well as thousands of dollars in prizes to student writers.
Michael Evans, Director of Advancement
(540)434-4475 x135