Alyssa Harwell was recently named the 2012-2013 Teacher of the Year at J.P. Cowen Early Childhood Center. She has been a teacher for the past two years, with last year being her first year to teach Head Start at Sweetwater ISD (Independent School District).
Harwell earned her degree in Early Childhood Education from McMurry University. Additionally, she is a member of the TCTA (Texas Classroom Teachers Association).
Her "fire for teaching" comes from several experiences in her life as a child, as she was diagnosed with severe ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). As a result, she was put on medication.
"I was the kid that teachers had to give squishy balls to during class so I wouldn’t be disruptive," Harwell recollected. "I had to stand instead of sit so I could be a little more still."
While in elementary school, an ARD (Admission, Review, & Dismissal) meeting was held between Harwell's parents and the school, in which the school counselor told her mother some unbelievable news.
"The counselor told my mom that she should just put me in modeling because I was a cute little girl and I was never going to learn how to read," recalled Harwell. "From my mom’s point view, the counselor just told her that I would never amount to anything."
Those words would serve as motivation for Harwell's mother to "do anything and everything possible to teach me to read." Up through the ninth grade, Harwell was placed in content mastery class for math and reading.
She said that her mother continually offered support and was willing for her daughter to be taught by "amazing teachers." Harwell went on to graduate high school in the top half percent of her class, graduate college and just recently finish her second year of teaching.
"Because of my mother's willingness...I am now able to make a difference in the lives of others and empower them the same way I was empowered," said Harwell.
As she teaches, she wants to be a role model to her students--just the way her mother was to her. Harwell wants her students to "be life-long learners, learn to respect others, and be accepting, upstanding citizens."
She added that she wants her students to thrive in hard environments and make experiences for themselves, not excuses. She wants only the best for them, so that they can excel in life.
"No matter what they do, [my students] will know they will always be encouraged by me."
Just as Harwell had the support she needed to achieve her dream of becoming a teacher, she wants her students to know that they can accomplish any of their own dreams.
"It may be hard work, and may require working things out," admitted Harwell, "but their dream can come true, because I am living mine."