Poling looks forward to working with her fellow teachers
By Matt Maccaro, WV MetroNews
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Toni Poling says her husband Eric made a deal with her upon learning she’d been nominated for the 2017 West Virginia Teacher of the Year award, when the Fairmont Senior High English teacher wasn’t sure whether to go on the interview.
“He said ‘yes, you should go.’ And if you win, I’m going to have a T-shirt made that says ‘I’m married to the West Virginia teacher of the year.’ He’s just very supportive and very proud.”
Eric can now make that shirt, as Poling received the award at a ceremony held by the WV Dept. of Education at the Charleston Embassy Suites Wednesday night.
“Really I didn’t expect to win at all. I’ve been telling my husband since the interview in August that I wasn’t going to win but he was adamant that it was going to happen,” Poling said. “I’m looking forward to working with other teachers. I think that’s a key part of our profession: working with other educators to help them do their jobs in the best way that they can.”
Poling now gets to represent the Mountain State on a national level for the next year, a $1,000 grant toward her school and the keys to a new Toyota to use. She’ll present what she learned at next year’s ceremony, as last year’s winner Andrea Santos of Logan High School did Wednesday night.
“I hope to tell everybody that I found a great balance between teacher of the year, and classroom teacher, mom and wife,” she said. “And I hope I’m able to share those experiences with my students, family, colleagues and next year’s teacher of the year.”
Poling, who teaches 11th and 12th grade English at FSHS, including AP English, said she didn’t have her sights set on being an educator until she was about the age of the students she now teaches.
“I wanted to be a paleontologist. Then I read John Grisham and I thought I was going to go to law school,” she recalled. “Then my senior year I had a really influential teacher who taught me what a teacher could be. So it’s because of her that I decided to major in education.”
Poling said she always had a passion for reading, and particularly enjoys reading Kate Chopin’s The Awakening each year with her students.
“I feel like it’s an eye opening piece for them; something that’s challenging, but has themes that they can relate to,” she said of the 1899 landmark feminist novel set in New Orleans. “I feel like every time we read a book it becomes a part of the person we’re going to become. So to know I’m having any impact at all on these kids, I feel very fortunate.”
She said she was both excited and a little bit scared of the year she now has in store.
“I feel very fortunate, and slightly terrified that I’m going to be the platform for West Virginia teachers. That’s a grave responsibility to hold, and to think about that at this moment is slightly overwhelming.”
Poling was chosen over five other finalists as the winner of the award.
The other five teachers nominated were as follows: Trisha Dalton of Phillip Barbour High School (Barbour), John Paul Lynch Jr. of Jefferson High School, Frederick Albert of DuPont Middle School (Kanawha), Erica Alexander of Tridelphia Middle School (Ohio) and Kathy Blevins of Summers County High School.