This week’s Welcome To Sanford Teacher of the Week is Leslie Cottrell, an AIG specialist at Greenwood Elementary. Mrs. Cottrell was also recently honored as Lee County Schools Teacher of the Year for the 2018-19 school year. Mrs. Cottrell has been on the faculty at Greenwood since 2017. Prior to that she taught at West Lee Middle School where she worked with the school district’s AIG coordinators, and at the Montessori School of Sanford for several years before that. As an AIG specialist, Mrs. Cottrell doesn’t have a dedicated classroom or set teaching schedule. Instead, she works with students in different grades and different classrooms at various times throughout the school day. As part of her responsibilities, Mrs. Cottrell also helps teachers identify gifted students in their classrooms and meets with parents to discuss the advanced course work those children will be doing.
Mrs. Cottrell works with all students at Greenwood in kindergarten through third grade. All students in these grades receive ongoing instruction in the Primary Education Thinking Skills (PETS) program as a means of enriching and extending higher order thinking skills. Students who participate in AIG in grades 4 and 5 become part of a pull-out program, where they undertake research, creative projects, Latin, cursive writing and hands-on math.
When Mrs. Cottrell arrived at Greenwood, she wanted her students to begin viewing her as the “thinking coach” because that “job description” reflects the approaches she takes to teaching and the variety of subjects she touches. Mrs. Cottrell notes, “We sing songs, but I’m not a music teacher. We create, but I’m not an art teacher. We read books and move our bodies, but I’m not a librarian or P.E. coach. I am there to pull all of these things together along with academic content and shine a light on how they think, and what type of thinking they are good at and how to develop their talents.”
Mrs. Cottrell was honored to receive recognition as one of the county’s leading educators. She comments, “I feel like this award is a reflection of the experience I am having as a teacher at Greenwood. The content I am teaching and the way in which I can present the material is a culmination of my passions and my talents, and therefore it allows me to shine. Now that the news has sunk in, I’m determined to represent Greenwood and Lee County Schools to the best of my ability and I am proud to do so.”