Meet Sarah Valentin, ACSC Teacher of the Year
Writer / Melissa Gibson
Pine Tree Elementary teacher Sarah Valentin has had an exciting year.
In May of 2023, she was named Pine Tree Elementary’s Teacher of the Year. Later in the summer she was named Avon Community School Corporation’s (ACSC) Teacher of the Year, and she was a top 25 finalist for the State of Indiana Teacher of the Year.
Some might say Valentin’s teaching ability comes naturally. Her mother was an elementary school teacher and then a school counselor for more than 30 years. Her two brothers are also school teachers on the east coast.
Valentin knew early on that teaching was her calling. She’s been teaching at ACSC for six years, but the Connecticut native has 20 years of teaching experience, moving across several states before landing in Avon.
Walking into a new school system was always a bit challenging and perhaps intimidating. Making a move to a different state, neighborhood and school could be a challenge for anyone. However, Valentin says moving to Avon was “different.”
“It was just a different feeling,” she says. “The support at ACSC in terms of new teachers was amazing. They set you up with a mentor and support you in whatever you need. I was new to Avon but had been teaching for years, and I had ideas I wanted to share. I wanted to be a voice and be on a team, and they allowed those opportunities at every turn.”
Valentin attributes her growth as an educator to the supportive climate and open-door environment at ACSC.
“When I first came to Pine Tree, my administrator really encouraged me to be a voice at the table and to not be afraid to share,” Valentin says. “Sometimes, as I moved from one school to another, I would shy away or stay quiet and people didn’t think I had enough experience, but Avon said they didn’t want me to be quiet, and it’s really pushed me forward and made me who I am today.”
The former second-grade teacher noticed a passion and a need for children who are multilingual.
She went back to school to receive a certificate in English as a New Language (ENL) for students who speak English as a second or even third language, and began a new role as the ENL teacher at Pine Tree Elementary this fall.
“There are 93 languages spoken at ACSC,” Valentin says. “I had students who were multilingual in my classroom and I was able to co-teach and co-plan with our ENL teacher at the time. I love that I get to work with all grade levels and I not only see my multilingual students, but my other students too.”
Pine Tree Elementary Assistant Principal Jennifer McCann Thomas spoke at the Avon back-to-school celebration.
“Toward the end of last year, Sarah interviewed for our multilingual teacher role,” McCann Thomas says. “She spoke with so much passion about her students, both former and current, about education, and about who she wanted to be as an educator. I later told her that her interview gave me goosebumps. She is what education is all about.”
ACSC Superintendent Dr. Scott Wyndham also congratulated Valentin for her success and dedication to students.
“Her passion for her students and her skill as an educator are going to propel her toward success in this new role,” he says. “She’s perfectly suited for helping this rapidly growing population of students excel.”
Sarah Valentin says the school’s culture reflects the idea that all students are everybody’s students, meaning every educator in the building wants to see every student succeed.
In the same way, she believes what’s good for multilingual students is good for all students. Creating opportunities for conversation, sharing with peers and learning about each other’s experiences is beneficial on many levels.
“When working with the ENL teacher last year, we really valued engagement and conversation in our students, and when we planned, we didn’t just plan what we wanted our students to master by the end of each lesson, but the opportunity to talk to each other and express themselves,” Valentin says. “I love being able to support all students and create these peer experiences.”
She works with the teachers too. “It kind of brings me back full circle,” she says. “I was given so much support when coming to ACSC, and now I’m on the other end, supporting teachers and students in the multilingual setting.”
Though Valentine didn’t place in the top 10 state finalists, the ACSC appreciation and peer nominations might mean even more.
“I’ve always felt valued at ACSC,” Sarah Valentin says. “Each school nominates a Teacher of the Year for their school and then a committee chooses the corporation’s Teacher of the Year, and it feels amazing to be selected, but I often think it wasn’t all me. Everyone in the school has a piece of it. I can’t do it every day without all the people that make it possible.”