Third-grade teacher Ashley Yon performs a rap song to help her students learn about the scientific method.
She teaches math concepts like area and perimeter using Cheez-Its as a measurement unit.
And her students at York’s Harold C. Johnson Elementary learn about South Carolina geography by decorating cookies to represent the different regions.
There’s a marshmallow for the Piedmont to represent the rolling hills, brown sugar for the Sandhills and blue sprinkles for the coastal zone.
It’s all part of Yon’s efforts to engage her students and get them excited about learning. Yon was recognized as the York school district’s 2014-15 Teacher of the Year during opening ceremonies last week. The district also honored its school-level teachers of the year.
Yon, a Winthrop University graduate from Gaffney, said she was first inspired to teach by her own first-grade teacher.
“She gave me a sense of I can do anything I set my mind to,” Yon said. “Other teachers along the way cultivated that, but she really planted the seed.”
Yon, who is starting her seventh year of teaching, said she gets many of her ideas for how to engage students from reading and from colleagues.
“Sometimes I make them up,” she said of the ideas. “But most of the time I do a lot of research. I read blogs from other teachers. I like to pick my colleagues’ brains.”
Yon said she especially enjoys using food in her lessons “because everybody loves food and to eat.”
For example, when she did a science lesson about preserving parts, her students stuck a gummy worm in Jell-O.
She said such lessons often require more up-front research and planning, but they also reap more rewards.
“There’s a lot more time spent, but the day goes by much faster and the kids are more engaged, so there’s less discipline,” she said. “They are less likely to get into trouble because they’re so enthused about what’s going on in class.”
Yon said she enjoys watching her students grow.
“Everyone doesn’t come in on the same level, and they aren’t capable of the same things,” she said. “But everyone is capable of growing. I love to see how excited they are when they know they’ve learned something.”
Yon said she initially thought she would become a first-grade teacher, but she found she works better with older students who can take on more responsibility.
She said one of her goals is to become a college professor so she can help grow other good teachers “so they can touch the lives of little children.”
York’s school-level teachers of the year are Amy McSwain, Cotton Belt Elementary; Michelle Campbell, Floyd D. Johnson Technology Center; Emily Harper, Hickory Grove-Sharon Elementary; Mark Wyndham, York Comprehensive High; Julie McGee, York Intermediate; Anne Witte, York Middle; Amber Faulkenberry, Hunter Street Elementary; Connie Lowry, Jefferson Elementary; and Terry Foster, York One Academy.