By Jennifer Smith
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Teacher of the Year Erin Sponaugle shifted into a new gear Thursday as she accepted some impressive gifts for her honor.
The 5th grade teacher from Tomahawk Intermediate School in Berkeley County was handed a check for $5,000 from Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield in a ceremony at the state capitol. Then Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin held up a set of keys.
“It’s almost like Wheel of Fortune! Today you’re going home in a brand, new Toyota,” announced the governor.
Outside his office was parked a 2014 Toyota Prius, which Sponaugle will drive during her year representing the state.
Sponaugle said she is overwhelmed by the honor.
“It’s very humbling because I know there are many wonderful educators across the state and they do so many amazing things for our students,” she said.
Sponaugle is an exceptional educator according to state Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares.
“Great teachers like Erin are the key to helping West Virginia children discover their own abilities and aspire to achieve more than they ever believed possible,” said Phares.
She doesn’t just teach by the book. She’s been honored on several previous occasions for projects that think outside the box. She plans to use one of those during her travels this year.
“Berkeley the Bear, the West Virginia version of Flat Stanley only he’s a furry black bear puppet, will travel with me and the rest of his Sugar Maple friends, Clay the Cardinal and Morgan the Monarch Butterfly, to name a few, to promote state pride and citizenship to our elementary students,” she explained.
Sponaugle said she was inspired by her aunt who was a teacher in West Virginia and Maryland. She hopes to inspire her own students.
“I learn as much from them as they learn from me. They light up my life,” she stressed. “Being a part of their future and the decisions they will make, that’s a priceless gift.”
This is Sponaugle’s tenth year in the classroom. She’s a graduate of Shepherd University and received her Masters from West Virginia University