Metro Parent Top Teacher Awards 2013
It's our annual tribute to five outstanding educators in metro Detroit. See how they bring Spanish, math, the library, compassion and kindergarten to life.
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Cory Sheridan, Fifth Grade Teacher, Ardmore Elementary School, St. Clair Shores
It's kind of ironic that I'm now teaching fifth grade, since that's one of the grades I missed the most when I was a kid," says Cory Sheridan, a fifth grade teacher at Ardmore Elementary in St. Clair Shores. As a child, Sheridan was in and out of hospitals as he battled bone cancer. Eventually, his right leg had to be removed just above the knee.
"I believe everything happens for a reason," says Sheridan, who spent summers in a camp for kids with cancer; when he was older, he became a counselor there. It was at camp that Sheridan realized that he didn't want to spend his life sitting at a desk – he wanted to help teach students sitting in theirs. "I wouldn't take away the experiences I've had because of my prosthetic leg for anything. It brought me into this field, That's how I met my wife (who's also a teacher). It's made me who I am."
Sheridan's zeal for learning is infectious in his classroom. Tricia Thompson has seen a dramatic transformation in her son, Cameron, while he was under Sheridan's care. She used to struggle to get her son to do his math homework – and his grades reflected his lack of interest. The former D student, however, is now getting As in his math class, and Thompson gives Sheridan the credit. "When he's really excited about it, the kids get excited about it." In fact, Cameron attends a weekly – yes, weekly! – Math Club on Tuesdays after school with Sheridan.
And he isn't the only one of his classmates there. Most of the kids in the class go to this extra hour of studying. On Thursdays, many students stay after school again to go to Chess Club, too. Asked about the secret to the clubs' popularity, Sheridan thinks for a moment, then says, "I try to pump them up and make it sound like it's a fun, exciting thing to do."
Part of his learning style is also helping his students feel like they're part of a team – Team Sheridan. Every morning when the kids come in to class, he greets each one of them, looks them in the eye and does the "Sheridan hand shake." The simple interaction "takes just seconds," says Sheridan, "but it helps me establish a rapport with the kids. I want to let them know that I'm there for them."
He does the same handshake with the kids when they leave for buses at the end of the day. "I think it's important to start and end each day on a positive note."