Joaquin Moraga Middle School – 2002 Winner

Susan Sperry teaches English, drama and yearbook at Joaquin Moraga Middle School.  She is a tireless, creative and caring teacher who focuses not only on her students’ academic progress but also on their social development as emerging members of the community.  She is trained in the field of special education, and she used that training to start an elective class called “Skills for Success,” in which she helps non-special education students who struggle in school to gain the necessary skills and confidence they need to be successful with their school work and peer relationships.  She searches out kids who have learning difficulties or may be going through a difficult time in their lives, takes them under her wing and devotes special attention to making them feel worthwhile and self-confident.  Two parents wrote in to describe how she gave special care and attention to one student whose mother had had a stroke and yet another student whose mother was dying of cancer.  She opens her classroom before school, at the lunch hour and even long after the school day ends, to students who need a place to do homework, hang out or just need someone to talk to.  And the students flock to her.

As a drama teacher, she puts on two plays a year at the school, spending hours after school every day working with her students practicing their parts.  She spends evenings and weekends helping the students put together the school yearbook.  She created a Diversity Committee that holds discussions and brings in speakers to teach students to respect differences between people.  And she has created two award-winning curricula for middle school students that have been published on the Internet, one called “Celebrate Women” and the other on the Holocaust.  And she is tireless in mentoring and helping other teachers at her school.  One student wrote in and said, “She puts her heart into her teaching.”