Julie Hinker, Junior Kindergarten Teacher at Lennox Elementary, has been awarded the prestigious title of Teacher of the Year by the Lennox School District.
Her passion for teaching, unwavering dedication, and commitment to fostering a love of learning is evident when you step into her classroom.
“Mrs. Hinker is an amazing role model for her students. She models kindness, caring, hard work, and perseverance. Fun activities are always happening in Mrs. Hinker’s room, students are often seen singing, dancing, and learning in ways that are hands-on,” said Amanda Kruse, Lennox Elementary Principal. “She helps students learn through difficulties while providing them with praise and guidance. Mrs. Hinker’s students are lucky to spend the year with her!”
Growing up with both parents as teachers, Hinker was immersed in the world of education from an early age. Witnessing the love and dedication her parents had for their profession, along with the strong relationships they built with their students, inspired her to follow in their footsteps.
“I saw the love they had for their profession and the relationships they built with their students. It motivated me to go into the same career,” Hinker said.
Reflecting on her teaching career, Hinker cherishes a particularly memorable experience during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Each year brings memorable moments – both good and bad. But a day I won’t forget was when the schools in South Dakota were all making the decision to shut down for Covid,” said Hinker.
As schools in South Dakota grappled with the decision to shut down, Hinker and her fellow educators faced uncertainty and fear.
“It was such a scary time as nobody really knew what to expect,” added Hinker. “Doing online learning for a quarter was certainly memorable and challenging for young students.”
However, amidst the chaos, Hinker’s class surprised her with a drive-by parade to celebrate her birthday.
“It was so great to see all my class and their families. During Covid, I realized how important being in the classroom was not just for the kids but also for the teachers – having relationships with my kids is what makes my job the best and most meaningful!” she emphasized.
When asked about her favorite aspect of teaching, Hinker unequivocally expressed her love for the children.
“Definitely the kids - it sounds very cliché - but it is so true. Watching the kids engage with the activities I have planned brings me so much joy,” Hinker said. “No two days or two hours are ever the same in the teaching profession – every day brings different challenges but also rewards.”
Engagement and motivation play a vital role in Hinker’s teaching philosophy. Working with early childhood learners, she acknowledges their natural eagerness to learn and please.
“Five-year-olds come in with a love for learning and are very eager to please and learn,” Hinker said.
To tap into their enthusiasm, Hinker employs a variety of hands-on activities, ensuring that each day is filled with excitement and exploration.
“I love to incorporate many different songs and music into my day to help make learning more fun and engaging,” said Hinker.
Hinker expressed her gratitude for being part of the Lennox School District.
“The Lennox School District is fortunate to have staff that truly have a love for the students. I feel blessed to be able to work with people who always have the best interests of the students at heart,” said Hinker.
Hinker’s unwavering dedication and passion for teaching have undoubtedly left an indelible impact on the lives of countless young learners, shaping them into curious, confident individuals.
Hinker will be honored as Teacher of the Year at the District’s end-of-the-year gathering on Thursday, June 1.