SSHS’ Emily Somers wins Ministers Excellence in Education award

St. Stephen – Being a teacher is a huge challenge at the best of times, but add a pandemic to the mix and teachers have greater challenges than they have seen throughout their entire careers. This past year has been challenging for teachers all over the world, and it is no different for those here in Charlotte County. When St. Stephen High School (SSHS) English teacher Emily Somers learned she had been nominated to receive the Ministers Excellence in Education award, she said it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“We had just finished the Orange phase right before Christmas,” said Somers. “We all found last spring and fall to be very tiring. We had just finished those few weeks of Orange, which were also exhausting. Right before Christmas, I think you’re just really dog-tired, but I think this year we’re all especially dog-tired. It was what I needed at that moment to keep going.”

Somers and fellow SSHS teacher, Scott Legge, both received the award. Legge was nominated by a former student and his mother, and Somers was nominated by SSHS Principal Krista Amos, along with a former student (which Somers was unaware of until this interview). Somers said there are two to three teachers per district who receive the award each year, and anyone can nominate them, from teachers to parents to students. Somers learned she had won through an announcement at school. She was in class with her students when they all heard the announcement.

“They announced, I think it was right before Christmas, that I had won the award and that Scott had won the award. When they announced it in school, it was kind of cool because my daughter is in my class. So, she was there for the announcement and they all clapped for me. It was a pleasant surprise,” said Somers.

In her nomination letter, Amos said Somers is exactly the kind of teacher any principal would want to have in their school.

“She sets the bar high and demands nothing but the best from herself and her students. She works alongside her students, guiding them to where they want to be and then steps back and lets them continue to grow. Many students surpass what they thought they could achieve under her guidance and direction.

Somers said even though she has been teaching for more than two decades, she learns something new every day. She said teachers tend to get into patterns and repeat many things as they find their flow. Everything is fresh in the first couple of years, and then they get into routines. But, there is always something new to learn. That couldn’t be any more true when in 2020, teachers had to adapt to technology in order to be able to ensure their students were receiving their educations.

“This year was especially challenging, because after 20 years it was like going back to being a first-year teacher again. I had to re-learn my entire method of teaching.”

Somers said many teachers struggled to adapt to the technology needed in order to deliver programs to their students. She said being a teacher during the pandemic has involved learning a lot more about new technologies, and took much more “planning, energy, and late nights” in order to convert lessons from paper to digital files students can access online.

When Somers learned she had also been nominated by former student Juliet Bartlett, she thought that was “awesome”. She had no idea she had been nominated twice, and said she is extremely proud of all of the things Bartlett has achieved, both in school and since graduation.

“She made me a better person, a better professional, and a better writer,” wrote Bartlett in her nomination. “To be quite frank, I would not be writing this letter to you in correct formal format if it weren’t for her Grade 11 letter assignment – I hear her say ‘four spaces between sincerely and your signature’ each time I write one.

“Emily Somers has inspired me to do great things and to have great morals. To respect others, be kind, and believe in myself no matter what. There are few people in my life that I have seen as a true and honest inspiration. Emily is one of them.”

“Oh wow. I didn’t know that,” said Somers. “I didn’t realize she nominated me too. That’s awesome. I need to give her a very special thank-you. Juliet worked on some special projects for me, and she had a tough assignment. She was working on an independent assignment, and I was the one who had to keep her going and keep her inspired. We’ve talked several times since then. She’s gone on to do really great things, and I’m really proud of her.”

Somers said she sincerely appreciates being nominated and receiving the Ministers Excellence in Education award. She said she has worked very hard over the years, and the nomination came at the best possible time, when she needed to hear it the most. She added that there are so many teachers who are being creative and innovative in their teaching methods, and that they are “doing awesome things” to help their students get through the pandemic.

“I’m humbled by the nomination, because I know that there are so many that are deserving. I really appreciate it, because I know I’ve worked hard, and everyone needs to hear that if they’ve worked hard.”

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca