Niagara Gazette — Ashli Skura-Dreher has long believed that the key to success in the classroom revolves around developing strong personal connections with students.
As such, the Lewiston-Porter special education teacher always makes sure to mark all of her students’ special occasions, from birthdays to graduations to dinners with family members.
“I have a very strong connection with the students and their families and I think that’s something we need to retain in education today,” said Skura-Dreher, who has been working with students who have moderate intellectual disabilities at Lew-Port for the past 16 years. “I really try to make strong connections with the students and make sure they know I care about them.”
Positive reviews given during interviews with former students was one measure that helped Skura-Dreher achieve a unique distinction this week.
On Tuesday she learned that a special selection committee coordinated by the New York State Education Department had chosen her as the state’s 2014 Teacher of the Year.
As a result of her accomplishment, Skura-Dreher will visit the White House next year to represent New York in the competition for National Teacher of the Year honors.
“I’m very humbled and honored,” she said during a telephone interview following the announcement of her selection Tuesday afternoon. “I think we have one of the best educational systems in New York state in the country and I want to represent the state well.”
Skura-Dreher’s teaching career started in 1996 with her first job working with children with special needs in the Franklinville School District. She arrived in Lew-Port two years later and currently oversees the high school’s life skills special education program.
She beat out three other finalists for the state teacher of the year award. She was selected as a finalist by a nominating committee after submitting a formal application, information about her educational and workplace background and letters of support from district Superintendent R. Christopher Roser as well as school principals, fellow staff members, parents and former students. Representatives from the state education department interviewed several of her supporters. They also sat in on her classes to observe her interacting with students. At the end of May, Skura-Dreher also conducted an hour-long interview of her own with committee members.