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Stephens recognized as Teacher with Heart
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Eastside kindergarten teacher Emilee Stephens is this year's Teacher with Heart. She is pictured here holding one of the many prizes she took home for her winning nomination. - photo by Nikki Childers
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Sienna Barnes holds up her entry nominating her teacher, Emilee Stephens. - photo by Nikki Childers

Teachers are tasked with big responsibilities that sometimes bear no thanks, but that isn’t the case for this year’s Teacher with Heart, Emilee Stephens.

Teachers with Heart ran from Feb. 1 to Feb. 10, with students nominating their favorite teachers to be recognized via write-in ballots, videos or submissions made on the Southern Standard website.

“I cried when I found out,” said Stephens with a smile. “This means so much to me, it made my whole day.”

Stephens is a kindergarten teacher at Eastside Elementary School and is in her second year of teaching. Last year, she was a first grade teacher, but has found her home with kindergarten.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and I absolutely love teaching kindergarten,” explained Stephens. “As a child, I would come home from school, line my stuffed animals up, and teach them. I’ve just always known that I wanted to be a teacher one day. I naturally gravitated to it.”

Her passion is obvious, as her student Sienna Barnes nominated her during the Southern Standard’s Teacher with Heart contest.

“She makes learning easy and takes time to help me,” Barnes wrote on her entry slip nominating Stephens for the contest, and the kindergartener was quick to follow that up with confirmation when describing the songs that her teacher uses to help the students remember the months of the year.

“I have them sing the months to the tune of ‘The Macarena,’” said Stephens. “Singing always helps to improve engagement and it helps them remember things more easily.”

Seeing her students’ progress from the beginning of the year to the end of the year is one of the most rewarding parts of teaching for Stephens. “The most challenging part is meeting them exactly where they are and going from there,” Stephens explained. “One thing that I always make sure to do is to check in with each child throughout the day, and I have them line up outside my classroom so I can greet them all first thing in the mornings.”

The attention that Stephens gives her students and her life-long fervor for teaching has earned her the distinction of this year’s Teacher with Heart along with a variety of gifts from the sponsors for the contest.