INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Our WISH-TV Golden Apple team found a winning teacher in May who not only touches the lives of students in her classroom but also inspires her fellow teachers as a mentor teacher in MSD Perry Township Schools.
Mrs. Heather Risley teaches 5th grade at Clinton Young Elementary School and applies each year to become a mentor teacher in order to share best practices and fresh ideas with her coworkers. And from what those teachers tell us, she has an entire catalog of fun teaching ideas.
“She has created escape rooms for her classroom that review different things they’ve learned,” said Jackie Phelps, a 2nd-grade teacher. “She gave the kids these puzzles they had to solve, different envelopes they had to find and codes they had to crack.”
“She bought a bunch of Jenga sets and color-coded them so when the kids pulled them they had to check a certain color card,” said Mackenzie Harrington, a 5th-grade teacher.
“It’s just different. I’ve never done it, any of the other classes I”ve had in any other grades,” said Shelby Gregory, a 5th grader in Mrs. Risley’s class this year.
“She has pillows on the floor, she has balls that are giant they can bounce on,” said Phelps. “So, no matter how the student learns, whether they’re a wiggler or in a regular seat they can feel comfortable in her classroom.”
These teachers also say they’ve learned from her, nearly as much as the kids.
“I’ve noticed a huge difference in my ability to connect with kids that aren’t quite getting it,” said Harrington.
“Yesterday, I met with her for an hour and she’s so personable and wants to help others and that’s something I’ve taken from her,” said Travis Hensler, a 3rd-grade teacher.
She uses technology frequently and has been able to maintain a lot of her activities in her mid-pandemic virtual classroom.
With the help of Clinton Young Elementary assistant principal Christie McKinnon, News 8’s Brenna Donnelly crashed the classroom meeting to announce Mrs. Risley is a Golden Apple winner.
Risley’s hands flew to her mouth and she didn’t speak for several seconds, then jumped when she heard a knock at the door.
“Wow, huge surprise,” she said as she walked out onto her front porch with a lawn full of Perry Township administration, our Golden Apple team and the Bailey & Wood Financial Group team.
“You are an amazing teacher and that’s why you’ve won the award. We have a special trophy for you, the Golden Apple. We also have $500 for you just to say thanks for all you do for the kids,” said Bailey Wood.
“Oh my gosh thank you,” said Risley. “I don’t know what to say!”
Our team showed her the nomination video from her peers and students, and as she wiped away tears, we realized we surprised her in more than one way.
“Thank you all so much. This is so unexpected and I do it because I love you all!” she smiled, waving at the open laptop with her students still in their virtual meeting.
“You don’t get into it for anything other than the kids,” Risley said. ” In my classroom, I get to impact 30 but when I get to help other teachers I then take my experience outside of my four walls and get to help even more kids.”
Mark your calendars for Thursday, June 11 for the Golden Apple Grand Finale, where our team will bring all nine winning teachers to WISH-TV studios and award one a $1,000 grand prize. Watch the teacher’s surprise on Daybreak, and the full special at 6:30 p.m.