Dana Rhoades was named the Teacher of the Year at Sweetwater Intermediate School (SIS) for the 2012-2013 school year. She is the fourth and fifth grade Special Education - Life Skills teacher.
Rhoades attended Wayland Baptist University and Angelo State University, in which she earned her Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood - Grade 4 Generalist, Grades 4 through 8 Generalist, and all-level Special Education.
She is a member and officer of the Kappa Delta Pi, an education honor society, as well as the Alpha Chi Honor Society. This past fall, she earned the SIS Bucket Filler award.
Within the community, Rhoades has held various committee positions. She teaches the middle school girls' Sunday School class at First Baptist Church, and is also the Bible teacher of KidX--the Wednesday night children's program--at her church.
In addition, she has been raising money to take part in her third trip to Andhra Pradesh, India. During her July 2013 trip, she will be working in rural villages with women and children.
Although the past six years have been spent teaching at Sweetwater ISD, Rhoades said that she began "teaching" as a small girl. Her first "students" were her German Shepherd named Frisky, her Miss Beasley doll, and a collection of stuffed animals.
"My love and calling for teaching was reinforced when I was a senior at Sweetwater High School and participated in the cadet program," Rhoades recalled. "I was fortunate to work one class period daily with Celeste Williamson in the resource classroom at J.P. Cowen Elementary, and it was there that I discovered my love for special education students."
But even though her calling and career was delayed by marriage and family, she said that the days she now spends with her "amazing kids" has exceeded anything she dreamed it would be. The children she teaches have special needs, but Rhoades explained that each child also has special gifts.
"It is my privilege to help them discover and develop these gifts and help them shine," noted Rhoades. "I believe an outstanding teacher makes it her first priority to ensure that every student feels safe, loved and respected in her classroom."
Furthermore, she believes that for a teacher to be effective, she must be an advocate for her students, especially a Special Education teacher. Rhoades understands that many of the students that are taught today do not have family members who can advocate for them.
"We as teachers are sometimes their only voice," she said.
Rhoades added that sometimes, people wonder why she chose the special education field. And to answer their question, she uses a quote by Robert Frost--a quote which expresses her heart for special education students.
"Two roads diverged in a wood," he wrote, "and I... I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."