Tera Dent Cheers on Struggling Students
Hillcrest Elementary Teacher of the Year
Last updated 3/5/2019 at 3:26pm
Tera Dent has, one way or another, always been a cheerleader.
For four years, it was on the sidelines at Warner University, where she was getting her elementary education degree.
Today, it's as Hillcrest Elementary's "K Academy" Director, working to support the academic needs of struggling students who were retained along with incoming students who are academically ahead of their peers, work that led to her being named the school's 2018-19 Teacher of the Year.
"I love that kindergartners are like little sponges and want to learn everything," she said.
She's been part of the Lake Wales Charter Schools system for 14 years now, including three years as its Kindergarten Support Chair, working with teachers across all elementary schools in the system to ensure their success working with students.
A native of Sebring, Dent said her third grade teacher, Laura Kirby, was one of her inspirations for choosing teaching as a career.
"One of the things that stuck out to me was how she went out of her way to help me when I was struggling in school. She even tutored me over the summer so that I was ready for 4th grade," Dent said. "One of my favorite things about her is every day after lunch she would read Beverly Cleary Ramona books. It was my favorite part of the day in 3rd grade. Mrs. Kirby was an energetic teacher who made all her lessons exciting and I wanted to be just like her."
Fellow teachers Belinda Hurst and Hilda Herbert provided many touchstones for Dent as well.
"Belinda took me in my first years of teaching and mentored me. She taught me to be patient with students. I loved that no matter what she always found the best in each of her students. She made everyone in her room feel special and loved. I learned so much from her and cherish the years I was able to teach with her," Dent recalled. "Hilda is one of the most amazing kindergarten teachers I have ever known. It still amazes me how she could get so many things accomplished in a single day."
And for Dent, everyday challenges really just mean every day on-the-job rewards, the payoff for being that cheerleader for every one of her kids.
"A great day in kindergarten is when you get to watch some of your students who have been struggling to grasp a skill or concept have that 'aha' moment. The moment they realize they just got it and they turn to you and have the biggest smile and look of excitement," she added. "In that moment you get chill bumps all over and tear up because they have done it."