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Ashtyn Bittle wins national teaching fellowship

ISSUED: 13 April 2017
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — A recent Shepherd University graduate was awarded a 2016-2017 National Network of State Teacher of the Year (NNSTOY) Teacher Candidate Fellowship. The university’s chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the education honor society, nominated Ashtyn Bittle, who graduated from Shepherd in December.

Bittle is one of 35 outstanding teacher candidates nationwide selected for the program, which just started this year. The teacher candidate fellows meet regularly with state teachers of the year and participate in activities that include webinar discussions about educational topics, collaborating with one another through weekly engagement on a discussion forum sponsored by the National Education Association, sharing and receiving educational resources, creating a professional growth plan, engaging in blogging opportunities, and making presentations with the NNSTOY community.

“It’s like a fellowship of teachers and a way for us to communicate and learn from one another,” Bittle said. “I like seeing everyone else’s different viewpoints on topics like inclusion, equality, diversity, having male role models as teachers, and hearing what everyone else has to say about what they’ve experienced.”

After she finished earning her degree and teacher certification in December, Bittle thought she would have to work as a substitute teacher until she could apply for a job next year. But a third grade teacher at Eagle School Intermediate in Martinsburg resigned that month, so Bittle applied for the job. Bittle did her student teaching at Eagle School and feels that helped prepare her to take over a classroom there.

“If I hadn’t student taught in this school, I’d be completely lost,” she said. “I would have sunk to the bottom really quickly. Because of the support here at school and the things Shepherd had me do as a student teacher, I was prepared in more ways than I could imagine.”

As a student teacher, Bittle had created lesson plans, so she had those when she started the job in January. Over the Christmas break, she bought decorative educational items to create a cozier learning environment in the classroom. She also acquired more books for the children to read. Bittle estimates she spent $300 to $400 just putting her classroom together—an investment she feels was very worthwhile.

“Seeing the excitement of the kids when they walked in after Christmas break and saw the bookshelves filled with books was great, it was totally worth the money,” Bittle said. “It made our classroom like a community, like we’re a family, and I wasn’t just stepping in for the teacher who left. This became my classroom.”

Bittle created a poster with a class promise, she made a job list, and the students’ names are posted in different places like on the classroom door and the wall for their birthdays.

“They see that this is their classroom and they show their parents sometimes when they come in,” Bittle said. “Every Monday they come in and look for their job. It brings them excitement. I think they really enjoy having the different things that remind them of their contribution to the classroom.”

Bittle said she was nervous after first taking over the classroom, but having the support from the school and her team members at Eagle School has made a huge difference.

“When teaching for the first year, there are going to be struggles,” she said. “But having this classroom, having these kids in here, and having the people back me up, I’m learning. I know I can do this, and I’m really excited about it.”

Listen to the interview HERE.

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