A little boy wouldn’t smile or talk. His teacher wrote him off as a student with too many special needs to progress.
Senior education major Marie Spear didn’t.
She created a puppet, “Tommy Trash,” to teach the boy about recycling. Together, Spear and the boy made a video with Tommy Trash to show the rest of the class.
“The child felt like he had something to offer for the first time,” Spear said. “Seeing him smile in front of his class and be proud of something was an experience I’ll never forget.”
The Indiana State Reading Association is recognizing Spear as an Outstanding Future Reading Teacher for teaching methods like that one.
College of Education professors at Butler University nominated Spear for the award.
Nominees must have an overall GPA of at least 3.2, at least 12 credit hours in reading and language arts methods classes with at least a “B” grade in each of the classes and the recommendation of the Reading and Language Arts faculty.
Deborah Corpus, associate professor of education, said that Spear far exceeded those requirements.
“She was supported by all the professors who have had the opportunity to have her in a reading or language arts methods class,” Corpus said. “She will graduate with high honors because of her grade point average and the quality of her departmental examination.”
Spear said that it was an honor to get recognition from Butler professors.
“It was really motivating to see that other people had confidence in me,” she said. “Awards like this just remind people to be outstanding because children deserve to have teachers who will go the extra mile.”
Spear is no stranger to going the extra mile.
The summer after her freshman year at Butler, she created her own tutoring business, Summer Strides Tutoring, from her living room.
“A lot of my classes were undergrad and I wanted to get started working with kids,” she said. “I developed a classroom in my home and I’ve expanded it every year.”
In three summers, she has tutored 17 special needs students.
“It wasn’t easy getting started but I’ve had so many great memories with those kids,” she said. “If I could do that more, I would do it in a heartbeat.”
Cathy Hargrove, another one of Spear’s professors, said Spear is always reaching out.
“She has this knack for wanting to work among the most challenging children,” Hargrove said.
“She finds a way to meet their needs and find a connection and relationship with that child.”
For Spear, making teaching a career was second nature.
“When I was growing up there were always people in my class who struggled and I thought it was so rewarding to help,” she said. “It just seemed so natural to make it my career.”
Corpus said that one of Spear’s professors wrote of her bright future.
“Parents will love her because she knows each child so well and works to make sure each child succeeds,” the professor wrote. “A principal will love her because of her work ethic. If a job needs to be done, Marie is there to do it.”
Hargrove agrees that Spear’s future and the future of the education field will be bright.
“I see the work that Marie is doing and a smile comes over my face because of my children and your future children,” Hargrove said. “[Butler education students] are going to be their teachers, and it’s really great to see that this is what is up-and-coming in the field of teaching.”
Spear is just as optimistic about her future in the classroom.
“I hope future students in my classes will say that I’m a teacher who cared about them in all domains, not just academic,” she said. “I hope I inspire them and make everyday at school a happy one for them.”