Golden Apple

Pittsboro teacher brings students up to standard after pandemic setbacks

PITTSBORO, Ind. (WISH) — The COVID-19 pandemic closed schools last spring and sent millions of students home to recreate the classroom experience online. But what about students who never had the classroom experience to begin with?

“Kindergarten. Pivotal time to learning to read,” said Shannon Casertano, watching her son Austin play on the playground. “He was just getting in his groove for learning and we were getting excited, and then schools closed. “

Aubrey Pluim had the same experience with her son, Liam. Both Liam and Austin started first grade last fall behind the standard reading level. Liam had the unique combination of a quick smile and a quicker memory, so Pluim said some teachers assumed he was on-track.

“I said, he’s not reading, he’s memorizing. [The teacher said] no, no no, he’s fine, he’s fine,” said Pluim. “Well, he’s not fine.”

Then Liam and Austin started class in Alexandra DeSutter’s first grade class at Pittsboro Primary School in Northwest Hendricks Community School Corporation.

“I just had a conversation with her over Zoom and said Look, I’m very concerned. Please trust me when I say as his mother that he cannot read.’ And she did that,” said Pluim.

DeSutter then put the boys on a plan, providing extra homework, extra in-class attention and extra motivation to learn to read.

Within just a few months, both boys were reading above age level.

“I would do anything for my kid. I would do anything. But there’s only so much I can do. And she loved him enough to do something I couldn’t give him and I’ll never be able to pay that back,” said Pluim.

“He went above where he needs to be and it’s all thanks to her,” said Castertano.

The accolades echo through the halls of the school. Fellow teachers, former teachers, students and administration all called DeSutter “positive,” “hard working,” and “incredible.”

“It has been a tough year for all of us,” said school principal Jennifer Hollingsworth. “The teachers have shown grit. […]They work tirelessly to ensure that not only are these children learning their academics but also social emotional learning.”

“Not surprisingly, we’ve seen a lot more anxiety than we have in other years,” said school counselor Kimberly Holleman. “Separation anxiety, it’s harder when you’ve been around your parents for so long. “

Holleman said one of the best things for kids this school year is to have a safe person at school.

“If I can pat Miss DeSutter on the back, she does a great job about having that consistency. If you feel safe, if you feel comfortable, then learning is going to blossom,” said Holleman.

So our WISH-TV Golden Apple team marched down the hallway and into DeSutter’s classroom to surprise her with a Golden Apple trophy, $500 from our sponsor partner Bailey & Wood Mortgage Lender, and a nomination video all about her.

Watch the full nomination video below.

DeSutter said her students didn’t spoil the surprise at all.

“You got me!” she laughed.

Bailey Wood gave her the award and thanked her for her service to the students. After watching the video, tears filled her eyes again.

“It’s very touching. It’s very humbling. I obviously did not do this job for any other reason but to care and to be here for the kids and I’ve tried to do all the things I could for them and it’s nice to hear that i’ts appreciated a little bit,” said DeSutter.

To watch this year’s previous winners, visit the Golden Apple homepage.

Be sure to watch our 2020-2021 Golden Apple Grand Finale Special at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 10 only on WISH-TV. One teacher will win the grand prize of $1,000 and all will be recognized for their hard work and success this school year.