Judie Woods – a Milford Central Academy science teacher recently named Teacher of the Year in Milford School District – said she was never a big fan of school and never expected to become a teacher, but is honored and humbled by her recent distinction.
Judie Woods never thought she would become a teacher.
Her father was a biology professor, but Woods – a Milford Central Academy science teacher recently named Teacher of the Year in Milford School District – said she was never a big fan of school.
“I disliked school as a kid, especially science, because of the way it was taught – they either bored me to tears with textbook assignments or the environment was so loose and chaotic that I feared for life and limb,” she said. “I also disliked school because of the bullying, which was widespread at the time and nothing was done about it.”
But before she graduated high school, Woods developed a profound love of learning, all because of her teachers at Providence Friends School in Media, Pa., which she attended during her senior year.
“I loved it. They treated us like human beings,” she said. “It was informal, it was nontraditional and I loved it.”
The bullying she experienced in public school was not tolerated at the Quaker day school, which she said allowed her classmates to work together and respect their individuality.
After high school, Woods took a few years off to gain work experience before enrolling at West Chester University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies in 1986.
Woods said she wanted to save the environment back then, so she started working for the National Park Service. Soon after, Woods moved to Florida and couldn’t find the environmental work she was looking for, and ended up substitute teaching at a middle school.
“I started substitute teaching in the 1990s in Florida and found that not much had changed,” she said. “I soon learned that I had a great rapport with the kids and decided to teach.”
Woods said she wanted to share the experiences she had at Providence Friends School with students and began her journey to the classroom.
For the past five years, Woods has worked as seventh-grade, integrated science teacher in Milford, where she also participates in a variety of programs both in and outside of the district, including the National Association of Student Councils, the National Science Teachers Association, the Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club, as an Odyssey of the Mind sponsor and as faculty advisor for the Academy’s student council.
Woods said the passion for teaching she discovered as an adult revolves around her students.
“My personal feelings and beliefs about teaching are that all students deserve respect, encouragement, kindness, caring, personal attention and safety, both at the primary needs level and to take academic risks,” she wrote in an essay that describes her teaching philosophy.
“The biggest rewards are seeing the light go on when a student grasps the concepts I’m teaching. It is also rewarding when a student returns years later and tells me that I inspired them to pursue a career in science, or helped them out by listening to them and caring about them.”
Travis Moorman, the school district’s director of teaching and learning, said a connection to students is the key in earning the title of teacher of the year.
“We are looking for individuals who put students first,” he said. “Judie stood out not only because of her ability to build relationships with students, but also the leadership she demonstrates within her school. Teachers like Judie, as well as [nominees from each of Milford’s other five schools] are invaluable to our district.”
Woods said she is honored to be named Teacher of the Year.
“At the same time, it is also very humbling,” she said. “I am honored to be a teacher at Milford Central Academy. I have learned something from each and every one of the talented and dedicated teachers and administrators at my school and at other schools in my district.”
BUILDING-LEVEL TEACHERS OF THE YEAR
The district’s Teacher of the Year is selected from a pool of nominees made up of educators chosen as the building-level teacher of the year at each of Milford’s six schools.
The following are the Teachers of the Year at their respective schools:
EVELYN L. MORRIS EARLY CHILDHOOD CENTER
Andrea Fleming – pre-K special education
BENJAMIN BANNEKER ELEMENTARY
Rita Frost – fourth and fifth grade
Diana Brode – third grade
LULU M. ROSS ELEMENTARY
Kelly Dee – third grade
Cami Morgan – foreign language