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Future Educators Claim Award at 2023 Teach Tomorrow Summit

Two Belton ISD seniors earned a top award at the Texas Association of Future Educators (TAFE) 39th annual Teach Tomorrow Summit earlier this month. 

Annabella Loertcher and Haylee Bella won gold for the interactive bulletin board they designed and created. Their almost perfect score of 99 out of 100 qualified them to compete at the Educators Rising National Conference, to be held June 29-July 2 in Orlando, Fla.

The two are part of the Education and Training pathway of classes at Lake Belton High School, where they learn about educational theories, lesson planning and classroom management and then put their knowledge into practice during practicum experiences at other Belton ISD schools.

“Learning from real-life experience is much better than learning from a textbook,” Kimberly Williams, the Education and Training teacher at LBHS, said. “They come to my class with stories about their students, excited about becoming an educator.”

The idea for Loertcher and Bella’s interactive board came to Bella while helping with a practicum class where the elementary students were working on a weather-related activity.

Using the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) state standards as a guide, they created opportunities for students to choose moon phases and weather conditions, track daily temperatures and then pick how to dress Luna, a paper panda included on the board.

After about 2 months of working on their interactive bulletin board, they shared it with a class of third-graders at Tarver Elementary to get feedback.

Teacher Anna Fitzsimmons said it was a hit.

“My students had a great time with the bulletin board,” she said. “Their favorite part was getting to dress the animal for the appropriate weather. We also loved the QR codes.”

For the regional and state competitions, Loertcher and Bella had to give a five-minute presentation to judges explaining their board’s target audience and how teachers and students would interact with it.

“We prepared by practicing in front of teachers at our school,” Bella said. “Their feedback helped us with our presentation skills. We were very nervous. I practiced so much that my brain was working faster than needed. I stumbled a bit on my words, but then took a deep breath which helped with presenting.”

Williams is proud of how the project, which the girls started working on in October, touches on all of the district’s Journey of a Graduate competencies — adaptability, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, empathy and perseverance.

“This is a long-term commitment,” she said. “They’re working together, utilizing the strengths of each other, getting feedback to improve and helping each other when they doubt their skills and abilities.”

Williams said she knew they would do well at the competition.

“What really mattered to me was that they received confirmation from the judges that they were phenomenal,” Williams said. “They worked incredibly hard, and it was amazing to watch them learn that they had qualified for the national competition.”

March 31, 2023