Wendy Todd has always had a knack for being the mediator between her friends and family.
“I have a love for helping people,” Todd said. “Giving others advice and making them feel good makes me feel good about myself.
“I have always been a counselor to my friends, so being in an environment where I am able to teach children and also be on the sidelines to help them in all areas of life is a perfect fit for me.”
Todd, who is an educator at the Alternative Learning Academy, was recently named the Sheridan School District Elementary Teacher of the Year. She received the award at this year’s Grant County Chamber of Commerce Banquet on Feb. 10.
“I am just overwhelmed with emotions,” Todd said. “I was really shocked because there are so many great elementary teachers.
“Just to be in the same circle of the teachers who I know are out there — I truly felt blessed.”
Superintendent Jerrod Williams said Todd is a passionate and talented teacher.
“For the past 11 years, she has made a remarkable impact on the students in our alternative learning program,” Williams said. “She truly
understands the importance of ensuring that her students’ mental, social and emotional needs are met.
“Her dedication to her students and her skills as a teacher give her the ability to reach the most challenging students.
“I am proud our community is honoring her as the Grant County Elementary Teacher of the Year.”
In 2006, Todd was hired to the Alternative Learning Academy, which is a separate branch from the school district. She said her students come from their home campuses, where they might be struggling in their classrooms.
“Basically, it gives some students in a regular class setting an opportunity to be in a smaller environment and be more accessible,” Todd said. “Our school district is very fortunate to have this program.”
“I just feel like I know I can help children learn to be their very best, even when they may be at their worst,” Todd said. “I find joy when they realize they can control their own actions, regardless of their own personal struggles.
“When they get defeated or feel negative about themselves, it is an opportunity to build those children up. The [academy] is a platform for them to be successful.”
Todd received a bachelor’s degree in elementary and early-childhood education from the University of West Alabama in 1996. She graduated from Jackson Academy High School in 1990.
“When you walk into her classroom, whether you are an adult or a 5-year-old, it’s very clear that it is a safe place,” said Ryane Sorey, coordinator for the district’s mental-health program. “It is comfortable, and she gives them the individual attention they need.
“They know that Mrs. Todd loves them.”
Sorey, who has worked with Todd since she started at the district, said Todd is so in-tune with her kids.
“She knows them well enough to anticipate some challenges that day,” Sorey said. “The relationship that she builds with her students is amazing.
“She is just a phenomenal teacher and is always willing to learn new curriculum and new interventions — anything that is applicable.
“She is just top-notch.”
Right now, Todd has seven students in her classroom, but she can have up to 12 students. She said the number changes from year to year.
“Once they meet certain goals, things they are struggling with, whether it is academic or behavior goals, then we transition them back to their home classroom,” Todd said. “Right now, we have three students getting ready for transitioning.
“It has been a very successful year.”
Todd said the best part of her job is seeing the kids “light up when they are successful.”
“Even if it is just the smallest thing at the end of the day,” Todd said, “I know I have made an impact on their day.”
Todd said the transitions depend on each individual student.
“We work very close with their home campus, making sure they are aware of the goals,” Todd said. “We work side by side and are actively involved so that bridge is still there for the child, so they can be successful.”
“A lot of people have the wrong impression about the Alternative Learning Academy, but we have such great support from the school district. We get a lot of support because they know what we do over here, and that’s what’s nice about it.”
Todd is originally from Alabama, where she taught for six years, including at a private school in Selma. She moved to Arkansas with her husband, Trayvis Todd, who relocated for his job. He currently works for Shelby Taylor Trucking/Forestry Associates.
The couple live in Sheridan and have been married 18 years. They have a 15-year-old son, Courtland, who plays for the Sheridan High School baseball team.
“Spending time with my family is probably the most important thing to me,” Wendy Todd said. “Our life revolves around baseball — anything related to baseball.
“I love to go watch baseball. It’s my getaway, and I really love the Yankees.
“We also like to travel.”
Todd said one of the reasons she connects so well to her students is because of the personal loss she suffered as a child.
“I lost my dad when I was very young, and that was very traumatizing for me. I didn’t have a lot of people to really sit and talk with me, and back in my day, you didn’t have the things in place like you do now,” Todd said.
“There is so much out there in the districts where you can solve problems and give the students an outlet to feel safe,” she said. “I didn’t have that as a child. I spent my whole high school years being the inside friend and counselor. Everybody came to me with their problems, and I was able to help them.
“It made me feel good. I have always been able to be very neutral and very honest because I deeply care about them.”
Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.