2016 Teacher of the Year
Bradley Ward, a fifth-grade inclusion teacher at Rosemont Forest Elementary School, is the Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) 2016 Citywide Teacher of the Year. Ward, a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, was selected as the citywide winner from an initial pool of 87 teachers of the year and has been teaching for 16 years, 11 of which have been with VBCPS.
"Students who are lucky enough to be enrolled in Mr. Ward’s fifth grade class never know what might be in store for them on any given day,” wrote Rosemont Forest principal Greg Furlich in his nomination of Ward. “They could be building bridges, constructing catapults, digging in the dirt for artifacts or learning to write code. What they won’t be doing is reading from a textbook, completing worksheets or listening to endless teacher talk."
Furlich added, "STEM is not a subject, but rather a philosophy that permeates every subject, every day in room 34," noting that Ward has been a driving force in the school to spread an interest in science, design challenges and creative teaching.
Just ask Melissa Spivey, Ward’s fifth-grade colleague, who can hear Ward’s students learning daily. "Sounds of trombones, vibrations of sound waves and dirt from archeological digs are just some of the hands-on learning activities that permeate through the walls and floors of Brad Ward’s classroom," she wrote in a nomination letter.
"Being next door to such an amazing teacher did take some getting used to, but the students absolutely love it," Spivey continued. "He creates a maker space in which there are no right or wrong ways of thinking. He knows his students' strengths and weaknesses and can provide lessons to accommodate [them]. I have learned to become more effective in motivating my students, connecting with my students and using a variety of ways to engage students through Brad’s methods"
Not only is Ward known for his passion for and commitment to STEM education, but he is admired for his desire for continuous improvement and professional growth. According to elementary social studies coordinator Meghan Raftery, Ward sought an opportunity to participate in the 2014 Mickelson ExxonMobile Teachers Academy, and dubbed it a "truly a life-changing experience." Raftery described Ward as "brimming with ideas and volunteering to share ideas with the rest of our lead teachers" when he returned.
Ward will tell you that you his desire to "never stop learning" was not present in his younger years. He described himself as "the epitome of a lazy student…bored, disconnected and unmotivated." That was until Ward, a trombone player, met his high school band director, Bill Pease. "[He] was the ultimate motivator! His only goal was achievement at the highest possible level. He taught with the idea that everyone could improve and find some level of success," recalled Ward.
Likewise, Ward is passionate about student achievement, noting that he is "always looking for the best ways to reach the unreachable, challenge the higher-level thinkers and the most creative ways to motivate the unmotivated."
At the end of the school year, Ward hopes his students leave with "a joy of discovery – a desire to question, search and succeed."
"That is my reward!" he says.