In her 41 years in front a classroom, Sharon Syracuse has gone from chalkboards to smartboards. Her students have used everything from the Apple IIe to iPads. Lessons have gone from the adventures of Dick and Jane to the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia.
Through it all, her colleagues say, the second-grade teacher has never stopped learning.
“She’s an extremely reflective person, always looking to improve her craft and do better, always seeking new, better ideas,” said Keith Wing, Syracuse’s principal at Forest Elementary School in Williamsville. “She is very technologically savvy. She always goes above and beyond.”
That drive to continue sharpening her teaching skills, Wing said, was one of the reasons her fellow second-grade team teachers and the school’s Parent Teacher Association nominated Syracuse for the Western Region PTA’s 2013 educator of the year award.
She was honored with the association’s award during the PTA’s annual presidents and principals dinner earlier this fall.
Syracuse began her career in Williamsville Central Schools at what was then known as Academy Elementary School in 1973. When that school closed, she moved to Forest Elementary, where she has continued to teach. She noted during a recent Board of Education meeting that she has gone through six superintendents, four principals and “every reading, writing and math program that has been published in the past 41 years.”
Today’s students, she said, have a world of information available at their fingertips with the click of a computer. The ability to incorporate technology into a lesson plan has changed how teachers prepare for class, she said, but some things remain the same.
“Even the process of how we discover things is so totally different today than it was 40 years ago,” Syracuse said. “But I think what remains the same is that 7-year-olds are still 7-year-olds. Whether we have technology or not, they really still need to enjoy learning.”
Anybody coming into the profession, she said, needs to create ways to make learning challenging, engaging and fun. Even in her 41st year of teaching, which she intends to make her last with a planned retirement next spring, she is still working at improving her lesson plans each day.
“We want kids to enjoy learning. We want kids to be engaged in learning. We want to create ways to make learning challenging and relevant and a whole lot of fun,” Syracuse said. “And I think that’s a huge challenge right now for educators.”