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Yuma-grown Nevada Teacher of Year honored at White House
2012 Nevada Teacher of the Year Deanna LeBlanc, who grew up in Yuma, was recently honored at the White House by President Barack Obama for her accomplishments.
At a National Teacher of the Year ceremony, instructors from all 50 states and from U.S. territories each had a one-on-one meeting with President Obama.
“It was probably a moment I will hopefully never forget for the rest of my life,” said LeBlanc, a fourth-grade teacher in Fernley, Nev.
She also met with Nevada Sen. Harry Reid as well as Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill, an educator for over 30 years, in their home at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington.
In addition to being 2012 Teacher of the Year for Nevada, LeBlanc was a finalist for the national title.
LeBlanc was nominated by East Valley Elementary School Principal Claudia Sadness for her work with her classes of special education students and gifted students and for having good communication with parents and other teachers.
LeBlanc's honor was announced at a surprise assembly on campus.
“The governor was there and a lot of county commissioners and all district administration came out for that and the school band. It was pretty neat. To be called the Teacher of the Year is just such an honor.”
LeBlanc said she decided to become a teacher after tutoring kids in the foster system as a senior in high school.
“I'd go over there after school and I would tutor a group of girls and I just fell in love with it then and I never looked back. After I graduated, I went straight to (University of Nevada, Reno) to get my degree” in elementary and special education.
She attributes her teaching abilities to those she has worked with and learned from. “I wish that I could take this award to all the people who have ever mentored me in my career, because in 10 years of teaching I've taken a lot of classes and worked with a lot of amazing people who are just as deserving as I am.”
LeBlanc recalled one teacher in particular from Yuma who greatly impacted her life. Throughout college, she often thought of her Rancho Viejo Elementary School fifth-grade teacher, Marla McCall, because of the great year she had with her.
“I think when you have a teacher like that, you realize that one person can really make a difference as to whether or not a kid has a good year or a bad year — I feel like she did that.”
In the future, LeBlanc hopes to work at the district level with special education students.
“I believe that you can make all kinds of policies at the state level, but in people's classrooms is where the biggest difference is being made, so I'd like to work with people there.”
She also hopes to work at the state level to improve science education in Nevada.
“With No Child Left Behind, we focus so hard on reading, writing and math and that's happening across the U.S. because of the emphasis on testing. Science and social studies are really being left behind, so I'd like to be part of improving that in our state.”
This month, LeBlanc will attend the Education Commission of the States National Forum on Educational Policy in Atlanta and the International Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. In October, she will participate in the Next Steps Conference/Pearson Mobile Video Institute in Princeton, N.J., and New York City, working on the “Why I Teach” video project.
Sarah Womer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.