HSE Teacher of the Year Inspires Colleagues at Thorpe Creek
As we roll into the routine of a new school year, area teachers have been preparing for weeks to welcome their new students. I sat down with Hamilton Southeastern’s 2009 Teacher of the Year just days before the start of a new school year.
Agnes Pugel’s room at Thorpe Creek Elementary was orderly and inviting, with a fully stocked bookcase and student names already written neatly on cards at the top of each desk. While each student has their home base, Pugel allows them to work anywhere in the room, except the teacher’s corner. It’s not uncommon to see students cozied under desks, sprawled on the floor, or even out in the hallway as they complete their daily tasks.
“I like to give them as much flexibility as they can handle,” says the fourth grade REACH (GT) teacher, whose wisdom comes from nine years experience at the elementary level.
That’s the kind of astute advice Pugel’s peers often seek out. While Pugel officially mentored two second-year teachers last year, she unofficially mentored most of the predominantly young staff at HSE’s newest elementary school.
“Mrs. Pugel is a well respected leader within our building and across the district and community,” said Thorpe Creek Principal Shawn Greiner. “The impact of her passion and educational support goes well beyond the students within her classroom. She is not only a mentor to teachers new to the profession, but also to the entire staff, as she is often approached for ideas and strategies to most effectively reach every child within our building.”
As any teacher knows, long hours come with the job. Pugel has a reputation for arriving early, and she often stays late or comes in on weekends if that’s what it takes to reach a struggling student or confer with a parent.
“She will work with anyone — child, parent or teacher — to support the learning process, academic achievement and personal growth of others,” Greiner said.
Pugel headed up the team which transformed HSE’s gifted and talented program seven years ago from a pull-out structure to the current self-contained classroom model that is now in all HSE elementary schools.
“Even though we’re at different schools, we have a very consistent program,” said Pugel, who also organizes Thorpe Creek’s Science Fair, Children’s Book Week, Math Bowl and grade-level field trips. Her favorite project of each school year is conducting an Underground Railroad simulation, where students role play as slaves, slave owners or safe house operators, and run stealthily around the entire building in pursuit of freedom.
“It does not matter that she teaches the REACH program, and I taught a general education class; she is able to adapt to all students and all situations in a classroom,” said fellow teacher Susan Krapinski, who was mentored by Pugel last year. “Agnes was so supportive and encouraging, and I knew, working with her as my partner, I would be able to develop a class that is as organized, productive and successful as hers.”
As HSE’s 2009 Teacher of the Year, Pugel is now in the running for the Indiana Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year. She spent a good part of the summer completing a 27-page portfolio for that competition, while husband Mike studied for the Indiana Bar Exam. They also keep tabs on three busy teenage daughters.
In support of Pugel’s nomination, three of her colleagues had this to say: “ Agnes Pugel is by far the best candidate for the Indiana Teacher of the Year. She is a devoted educator, giving much of her personal time to make her classroom, school and community the best it can be.”
Regardless of whether Pugel is named Indiana’s Teacher of the Year, Thorpe Creek’s Greiner knows he has a winning teacher: “Agnes is quite an asset to our school! We are blessed to have her on our school team.”
UPDATE: Thorpe Creek Elementary teacher Agnes Pugel has been selected as one of ten finalists for the Indiana Teacher of the Year honor. Pugel was chosen as Hamilton Southeastern’s District Teacher of the Year in May. Finalists will be interviewed in the coming weeks, and a state winner will be announced sometime in September.
Congratulations, Mrs. Pugel, and good luck!!