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DCSS Teacher of the Year Finalist: Jane Maples

Jane Maples is the Teacher of the Year for Lake Park Elementary School. / Mary Green

Jane Maples has taught different grades in elementary school, but she said there's something special about the kindergartners.

"It's so nice that when you walk in in the mornings, and they come down with that smile on their face and give you those hugs," she said. "It's just so rewarding."

Maples has spent the last 19 years at Lake Park Elementary School and has seen things change for the school's youngest students.

"Kindergarten is not like it used to be," she said. "It is a lot of work and a lot of rigor, but I try to make my activities fun and exciting and have a lot of content and meaning so that they can be a successful learner."

This is the first time many of her students have ever been in the classroom, so it's up to Maples to teach them essential lessons like walking in a line and following the rules. Then comes a bigger task.

"When they first come, the majority cannot read, and there are a lot of things that I have to teach, and that is a very big challenge," she said. "But by the end of the year, they are reading, and it is amazing at what they can do by the end of the year."

That's where kindergartner Ryan Jones is right now, and he said what he loves most about school is the library.

"My favorite part is the books have colorful pictures and really great words," Jones said.

For Maples, that's a feeling like no other.

"Oh it is such a joy, and they get so excited to say that, 'I can read!' It's just so exciting," she said.

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