Houston teacher wins TX 'Classroom Teacher of the Year'

HOUSTON "They mean so much to me," she said. "Children accept and love you unconditionally. They keep me going."

They kept her going when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, and were there to cheer her up throughout her treatment and recovery. She considers them the reason her job feels more like a way of life, a culture that has earned her the title of this year's "Classroom Teacher of the Year" by the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children (TAEYC) and "Teacher of the Year" by the Gulf Coast Association for the Education of Young Children.

"Honestly, I thought it was a joke," said Hutchinson. "I was really surprised because I'm just doing what I love most, spending time with children."

The mother of five welcomes about 20 young minds into her classroom each year, which includes a welcoming interactive environment and plenty of music. A graduate of The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) in Houston, Hutchinson is a firm believer in incorporating the arts into lesson plans.

On any given day, she can also be seen with a line of children in tow, going on mini field trips and nature walks around South campus. It's this type of teaching method and classroom atmosphere that won over Karen and Amadou Tounkara of Clear Lake. After visiting about 20 child care facilities last year for their 3-year-old son, Muizz, the couple called off their search when they met Hutchinson.

"She's extraordinary," said Karen Tounkara. "My son has a little speech delay; so we were looking for elements like equality, encouragement of parental involvement, and a warm and caring environment. Ms. Nancy's class had all of that. We truly think she's one of a kind."

Hutchinson also works alongside Preschool Programs for Children with Disabilities (PPCD) teacher, Katy Gump, to accommodate children in her class with special needs.

"Nancy is a natural at teaching children," said Linda Nichols, Children's Center director. "She genuinely loves what she does, and it shows through her enthusiasm and dedication. She'll come in early, leave late, and on some Saturdays, she's here working on her classroom so that the children will have exciting new activities to work with on Monday."

Hutchinson is a longtime Friendswood resident and 1979 SJC alumna. She began teaching at the South campus Children's Center in 1982, the year she received her bachelor's degree at the University of Houston - Clear Lake. She went on to transfer to the Central campus Children's Center and taught at a number of Clear Lake schools before returning to SJC South in 2007. Throughout her career, her motto has been to appreciate each and every role surrounding a child's educational environment.

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