East Noble names teachers of the year

East Noble School Corp.’s teachers of the year and nominees are: in front from left, Ryan Pepple with his therapy dog, Wanda, secondary teacher of the year, and Melissa Spencer, elementary teacher of the year; and in back from left, Rachel Ruse, North Side Elementary, Matt Bennett, East Noble Middle School, Jo Smith, Avilla Elementary, Caitlin Hull, Wayne Center Elementary, and Wendy Dunlap Warren, Rome City Elementary.


KENDALLVILLE — East Noble School Corp. recently named its teachers of the year, who will represent the district in the Indiana State Teachers of the Year competition.

Ryan Pepple, a special needs teacher at East Noble High School, was named Secondary Teacher of the Year for 2016-2017, and Melissa Spencer, a South Side Elementary School teacher, was named Elementary Teacher of the Year for 2016-2017.

Both were honored along with other nominees at Monday night’s school district staff recognition dinner.

This year, the Indiana Department of Education is allowing school districts to submit an elementary and secondary school teacher for state teacher of the year honors.

Staff members at each East Noble classroom building — the high school, middle school and five elementary schools — nominated one candidate from their buildings. A committee of the previous year’s winners selected the teachers of the year based on an application each nominee submitted, according to Superintendent Ann Linson.

Nominees from the other buildings were: Rachel Ruse, North Side Elementary School; Matt Bennett, East Noble Middle School; Jo Smith, Avilla Elementary School; Caitlin Hull, Wayne Center Elementary School; and Wendy Dunlap Warren, Rome City Elementary School.

“I share this honor with the entire special education department I work with,” Pepple said in an email response about the honor. “So many good teachers at East Noble … It’s good to be a Unified Knight.”

When asked about the award, Spencer said in an email she is both honored and humbled to have been selected. “Teaching is not a job to me, but an important part of my life,” she said. “I truly enjoy what I do, and want students to maximize their potential each and every day.”

Pepple believes so much in physical activities as positive experiences for special-needs students he started the Abili-Team — now called Unified Champions — that includes students in K-12, according to his nomination letter.

He then started the Unified track team during the first year the Indiana High School Athletic Association adopted the sport.

Pepple added a Unified bocce ball team that won the state championship in 2015.

Believing he could do more for students, he worked with high school coaches and created the Unified sports inclusion teams, and supported the special-needs students after school while they participated alongside their peers on nine high school teams.

For the past five years, he has organized a K-12 Bike Day for special-needs students. He also has served as an assistant wrestling coach, participated in Special Olympics committee meetings, collaborated with other adaptive physical education teachers and Unified sports coaches in Indiana, and cares for his therapy dog, Wanda.

His nominating letter states: “With passion, belief, dedication, a heart bigger than all hearts, Ryan has changed the lives of all our students as well as our community.”

Spencer’s third-grade classroom does not resemble a traditional structure, according to her nomination letter. She has created an environment for her students to learn through collaboration, critical thinking, innovation and creativity.

Instruction is about engaging her students in activities that allow them to drive their learning, her nomination letter states. Her peers said she strives to differentiate her lessons, uses hands-on activities extensively and gives students a voice in their learning.

Spencer uses technology as a tool to support and enhance learning, such as students creating videos. Each year, she allows students to start their own business by developing a plan, creating a video advertisement and persuading students to visit the business and purchase its products.

She participates in leadership roles, supporting fellow teachers at South Side Elementary.

Pepple and Spencer will receive a $500 stipend for preparing their materials for submission to the state teacher of the year competition. They also will receive $1,500 toward expenses to attend a professional development activity of their choice.

Each building-level nominee will receive $100 toward classroom supplies.

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