2007 Teachers of the Year

2007 winner, Patricia A. Laney

Patricia A. Laney

North Carolina District

Patricia Laney teaches fourth grade at Murray Elementary School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She obtained her B.S. in Elementary Education from the State University of New York at Geneseo and her Master of Elementary Education from Fayetteville State University. Mrs. Laney firmly believes that it is her responsibility to work with the whole child. She feels it is her duty to prepare the students not just academically, but to instill in them the knowledge that they are competent, capable people who can learn. Her principal writes, "I can say that without a doubt she is the most energetic, enthusiastic teacher that I have met." A former student states, "She strives to challenge all of her students to their fullest potential and not many teachers are able to achieve that." A new teacher writes, "Pat Laney was my inspiration. When I looked at her, I saw the person I wanted to be."





Americas Area District

2007 winner, Mary Katherine (Katie) O'ConnorMary Katherine (Katie) O'Connor
Georgia/Alabama District

Mary Katherine (Katie) O'Connor teaches second grade at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama. Katie earned both her B.S. in Elementary Education and her B.S. in Early Childhood Education from Auburn University at Montgomery.

Katie feels that her greatest contribution to education is sharing the electricity of learning which was ignited in her at a young age as she seeks out new sources of energy to meet the needs of each individual within her classroom's four walls. She believes true learning occurs when students demonstrate the ability to share what they learned in a meaningful way.

Katie's superintendent writes, "Katie truly understands how children learn. She had her second graders involved in leading their learning before most of us knew that's how they learn best!" Her principal writes, "Katie has a way of making children feel valued, loved, and excited about embarking on an incredible journey of learning." Parents write, "There isn't another teacher I would have wanted for my son." And, "Mrs. O'Connor is a testament to the teaching profession."


2007 winner, Eric EisamanEric Eisaman
Guam District

Eric Eisaman teaches Physics, Geometry, and Algebra at Guam High School. He earned his B.S. in Secondary Education Physics at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.

A second generation teacher of Math, Eric grew up around his father's students and colleagues. While preparing for a career in science or engineering, it was his disenchantment with the ethics of society at large that drove him to become a teacher. He states, "I can better affect the ethical base from which future leaders act." He believes that every student has a gift, every student is worthwhile, and every student is worth his time.

A colleague states, "He always works with the best interest of his students in mind." Another says, "He is able to convey the concepts being taught in such a manner that some of our more challenging students are interested and interactive in his class. The students come away with an appreciation for the subject as well as a desire to learn more." His principal, Dr. Rita Williams, cites, "He actively engages his students by using teaching strategies that include cooperative learning, teacher-made/student-made projects, critical thinking activities, and hands-on learning."


2007 winner, Carol Y. JohnsonCarol Y. Johnson
Kentucky District

Carol Johnson teaches second grade at Mudge Elementary School at Fort Knox, Kentucky. She earned her B.A. in Social Work from the University of Kentucky and her Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Louisville.

Ms. Johnson believes that a quality teacher has a passion for the profession of presenting to young minds in a way that is fun, interesting, and fresh. She is excited and passionate about opening young minds to all kinds of learning experiences, especially real-life experiences. She also feels teaching and learning is an interactive process in which both parents and educators share responsibility. "When everyone participates, everyone wins."

Carol's principal states, "Carol is one of the most consistently effective and caring teachers I have observed in my career as an educator." A colleague writes, "Carol Johnson is an asset to this district. Fort Knox is fortunate to have a teacher of this caliber. She is a model teacher and others should aspire to be more like her." Her superintendent says, "The climate and culture that exist in her room are ones of professional quality as she facilitates her learners through differentiated instruction."


2007 winner, Linda W. AndersLinda W. Anders
New York/Virginia/Puerto Rico/DoDDS Cuba District

Linda Anders teaches second grade at Russell Elementary School in Quantico, Virginia. She earned her B.A. at the State University College at Oneonta, NY.

Linda's teaching focuses on caring. She is a concerned, compassionate advocate and role model for each of the young, innocent children who cross the threshold into her classroom. She believes teaching involves not only what page they are reading but how each child feels as he enters the room in the morning. She "teaches from the heart".

A parent writes, "Because Mrs. Anders maintains a strong presence of reliability and security, our military children not only feel the comfort she radiates, but feel safe to not just endure, but to achieve and accomplish the academic goals set forth." Her superintendent states, "Seeing her classroom transformed into an undersea world as well as a rainforest are only two examples of her attention to visual stimulation." A former principal says, "Immediately upon entering her second grade classroom, one can sense the warm feeling and know that your child is in someone's hands that cares deeply and who will provide an environment which will allow success for all".


2007 winner, Dorothy C. LasseyDorothy C. Lassey (Dori)
South Carolina/Fort Stewart District

Dorothy provides instructional support for first and second grades in Reading and Math and ESL for Kindergarten through third grade at Galer Elementary School in Beaufort, South Carolina. She received her B.S. in Elementary Education from Trenton State College, a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education and an Educational Specialist degree from the University of South Carolina.

Dori believes that education is about giving people choices in life. She is a nurturer who teaches collaboration, literacy, and how to apply knowledge. This enables her students to achieve success in a global community of which they are a part.

A former colleague writes, "Dori embodies every quality that a great teacher possesses. She understands young children and is committed to their learning. She possesses specialized knowledge of the reading process. She assesses students' progress and performance. She integrates reading and writing instruction. She critically and regularly analyzes her practice. I am honored and proud to call Dori my colleague and friend." Her principal states, "Whether you are a principal, a teacher, a student, or a parent, Mrs. Lassey is a person who will help you grow."


European Area District

2007 winner, Stefan ZappeyStefan Zappey
Bavaria District

Stefan Zappey teaches first and second grade Partial German Immersion at Patch Elementary School in Stuttgart, Germany. He received his B.S. in Education from the State University of New York, and his Masters of Education from Binghamton University.

Stefan has never stopped learning from and with the children in his class and truly listens to, as opposed to merely hearing, them. This coupled with engaging and challenging studies, child-centered and developmentally appropriate instruction, and high expectations, make his classroom an active, cooperative, and bustling learning community.

A colleague states, "Stefan Zappey goes above and beyond what is required of him as a teacher and he does it well. He is poised, articulate, and energetic". Another says, "Stefan's enthusiasm for working with children is infectious". His principal writes, "Mr. Zappey establishes a feeling of family in his class from the first day."


2007 winner, Karen Van BalenKaren Van Balen
Heidelberg District

Karen Van Balen teaches fourth grade at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Heidelberg, Germany. She earned a B.A. at Penn State University, and both an M.S. in Business Administration and an M.S. in Computer Information Systems from Boston University.

Karen believes an outstanding teacher is extremely patient, caring, encouraging, and creates a comfortable, positive environment for the students. It's very important that learning is fun and exciting for the students and that they feel successful.

Her assistant principal says, "She works hard to create an environment that is conducive to learning and yet motivates children to be the best they can be." Another administrator states, "Ms. Van Balen is constantly seeking ways to improve educational practices and increase the learning of all students. A colleague notes that, "She consistently develops innovative ways to create a class atmosphere that is positive and conducive to learning."


2007 winner, Barbara J. LeeBarbara J. Lee
Isles District

Barbara J. Lee teaches Mathematics and Computer Science at Lakenheath American High School in the United Kingdom. She holds a BS in Education and an MS in Curriculum and Instruction from Emporia State University, Kansas and a Master of Education in Special Education from University of Maryland. She earned her Doctorate in Educational Administration at Capella University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Barbara states, "It is important that our schools prepare all students to identify, analyze, and resolve problems as they arise; to increase their ability to respond and cope in a flexible manner with change; to develop character, which serves as the firm basis for sound judgment and considered decision making; and to enter the community as informed and educated citizens who are capable of living and working as independent and productive adults."

A colleague says, "Barbara embodies the best characteristics of an educator. She can teach a wide range of subjects and is devoted to sharing her knowledge with any and all levels of our student body and faculty." A parent states, "She has a positive, never fail attitude that is contagious with the children." An administrator says, "Her greatest strength is in the way she teaches leadership and responsibility."


2007 winner, Jacqueline M. GustaferroJacqueline M. Gustaferro
Kaiserslautern District

Jacqueline Gustaferro is a Language Arts Reading Specialist and Literacy Coach at Wetzel Elementary School in Baumholder, Germany. She earned her B.S. in Education from Northeastern University in Boston, and both a Masters of Education in Curriculum Development Leadership and an Educational Specialist degree in Curriculum Development from National-Louis University in Evanston, IL.

Jacqui believes that she is successful when she's not needed and children have come to see that they can control their own learning. They can stretch themselves beyond the limits of the basic cognitive activities. When children feel safe enough to know that they are all working together as a community of learners, to make the most of individual learning styles and abilities within an atmosphere of acceptance, encouragement and respect for uniqueness - then Jacqui knows she has succeeded as an educator.

Her principal says, "Through her proactive leadership, the excitement of learning has spread beyond the walls of the parent center (she created within the school), and into the entire Wetzel community. Much as she did in her classroom, she has helped create a school environment that encourages everyone to take risks and excel." A colleague states, "Stepping into Mrs. Gustaferro's classroom is an experience that one doesn't forget. Mrs. Gustaferro incorporates relevance into her classroom by bringing the outside world in through research, investigation, peer-group management, and an atmosphere where children develop an understanding of all members of the class."


2007 winner, Vicki L. O'BrienVicki L. O'Brien
Mediterranean District

Vicki O'Brien obtained her BS in Education from Indiana University and her MA in Educational Psychology from the University of Oklahoma. She currently teaches PE, Health, and ESL at the Livorno Unit School in Italy.

Vicki believes you must teach the whole child; emotionally, physically, socially, academically, and morally, in order to build confidence and prepare students for the workplace and contributing citizenship. She makes every effort to motivate her students to want to stay physically active and make healthy lifestyle choices by participating in school-wide events that they help coordinate and plan. She integrates technology by using heart rate monitors, fitness software programs, and pedometers.

A parent writes, "Ms. O'Brien has a talent for infusing the academic requirements of her classes with the practical benefits of the information she imparts. The attribute that makes her truly special as a teacher, though, is the fact that she does it all with compassion and understanding." Her principal states, "She is a professional and dedicated educator that takes teaching and involvement with her school and her students to new heights." The school nurse says, "I had worked with many other physical education teachers, and had taught health in both elementary and high school settings, but I had never seen anyone as prepared, knowledgeable or as inspirational."


Pacific Area District

2007 winner, Bonnie SeeleyBonnie Seeley
Japan District

Bonnie Seeley teaches Social Studies at Yokota High School in Yokota, Japan. Bonnie received her B.S. in Social Studies at Florida State University and Masters of Educational Psychology from the University of Oklahoma.

Bonnie believes her greatest contribution in education is her ability to relate to her students and to get them engaged in the curriculum. She loves her job; she loves the excitement of starting all over every year. She loves the challenges of the job, most specifically of how to reach the students and get them excited about learning. As a teacher, she is educated, entertained, challenged, and validated on a daily basis.

Her superintendent states, "Bonnie is an extremely well organized, dependable and versatile teacher. Throughout each school year, Bonnie motivates the students in her classes and extra-curricular activities to do the very best job that they are capable of doing". Her principal writes, "In the seven years that I have known Ms. Seeley, I have found her to be an educator extraordinaire." He also cited her work as a thespian, coach, and volunteer for Habitats for Humanity. A student who nominated her said, "Mrs. Seeley is more than a teacher. She is a mentor, motivator, advisor, tutor, coach, and cheerleader."


2007 winner, Jennifer M. SmithJennifer M. Smith
Korea District

Jennifer Smith is currently detailed as an Instructional Support Specialist to the DoDDS Pacific Area Office. She was nominated for District Teacher of the Year while teaching Social Studies and English Language Arts at Taegu American School in Taegu, Korea. She earned her B.S. in Secondary Education from Black Hills State University and her M.A. in Educational Psychology from the University of South Dakota.

Jennifer Smith became a teacher to help those young people who need a nudge or a good shove over the line into success. She became a teacher to help "straighten the margins". She believes that differentiated instruction nurtures learner ownership, intrinsic motivation, genuine assessment, and ultimately, student success.

A student writes, "Ms. Smith brings a certain element to Taegu American School that no other teacher has. She is able to create a learning environment that is both strict yet enjoyable. She truly cares for her students and wishes for their success." A colleague says, "Jennifer's kindness for others and focus on what is best for students is infectious." Another student writes, "Inside the classroom, Ms. Smith gives us the freedom to articulate our views and hold insightful conversations on a wide scope of topics. Considering both World and US History, we are continually challenged to learn not only from significant events in the past, but also to reflect upon and apply these lessons to both contemporary issues and our own lives."


2007 winner, Timothy M. BlackTimothy M. Black
Okinawa District

Timothy Black teaches Choral Music and AP Music Theory at Kadena High School in Okinawa, Japan. He earned his B.A. in Music Education at Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington. He received his Master of Music in Choral Conducting at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Timothy believes today's teachers are obligated to groom the next generation of leaders, taking a personal responsibility for their successful integration into society. He demonstrates this by meeting the needs of the visual, auditory, and tactile-kinesthetic learners seamlessly and simultaneously. His goal is to "Reach All -Teach All".

Tim's superintendent states, "He has successfully inspired the students and motivated them to achieve excellent skills." A principal says, "Mr. Black is an incredible teacher that always strives to not only improve his program, but ensure that his students are receiving the best instruction possible." A parent lauds him when he writes, "He has taught our child to persevere even when it would be easier to just give up."