In a packed Big Horn High School auditorium Tuesday morning, students from Big Horn Elementary School listened attentively as Principal Brent Caldwell, District 1 Superintendent Sue Belish, members of the District 1 School Board, members of the Sheridan Delegation to the State Legislature, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Jim McBride gathered to celebrate the new elementary school being built.
But the gathering was a ruse, of sorts, covering up the real reason for the celebration – the announcement of the 2011 Wyoming Teacher of the Year, Laurie Graves. Dr. McBride told the crowd.
Even the dignitaries on the stage did not know the real reason for the assembly, and as the children rose to their feet cheering, a shocked and happily tearful Mrs. Graves went up to the podium, stopping to hug the honored guests.
Also on hand to surprise her were her husband and daughter, her parents, her father-in-law, and her sister and sister's family. Mrs. Graves accepted the $5,000 check and then spoke to the audience.
Graves began her teaching career at Clearmont Elementary School in 1985. She now teaches 3rd grade at Big Horn Elementary, and also became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2007.
Her principal, Brent Caldwell, said that along with what she does in the classroom, something else factored into her selection.
A media release from the Wyoming Department of Education, noted that “Graves' passion for teaching began at a young age when she 'taught' her dolls, pets and any wayward neighbor...”