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Local elementary teacher competes to be 'America's Favorite'

Elizabeth Terry poses with her class at Soldotna Elementary School
Elizabeth Terry
Elizabeth Terry poses with her class at Soldotna Elementary School

If you ask Soldotna’s Elizabeth Terry what profession she wanted to pursue as a child, the answer was always clear: she wanted to be a teacher. Her mother ran a daycare center, allowing Terry to see first-hand what it was like to care for and inspire the next generation.

Fast forward to today, and Terry is a 5th and 6th grade reading teacher at Soldotna Elementary School. She’s been there for four years, but she’s been in the education field for 18. On a whim, she filled out an application for the Reader’s Digest “America’s Favorite Teacher” contest and is now in second place in the finalist round among the top five educators in the Alaska-Pacific Northwest category.

“Honest to goodness, if you’re doing this, it’s because you have a servant’s heart and you’re called to do this," Terry said. "I would say that we are all in that same category. I know that I should have some fancy slogan to put me above the rest, but honestly, if you’ve ever spent one day in the classroom, it’s hard work.” 

Terry says as a multi-grade teacher, having the same students under her wing for two years allows her to make a more lasting impact. She says her favorite part of the job is the satisfaction that comes with seeing the academic growth of her students.

“I always want them to remember the relationship that was built," she said. "I have very high expectations, they know that coming in, they always meet those expectations, regardless if they feel like they can or not. I want them to know that there’s still people out there that are good people and want the best for them, and believe in them.”

If she wins the contest, Terry says she’ll use the $25,000 to help pay for her children’s college tuition. She’ll also donate part of the funds to a fellow teacher at Soldotna Elementary who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

No matter who wins, Terry says she’s grateful she’s made it this far in the contest

“I’m thankful that there is a competition like this that would just support teachers and put the spotlight on people who really give of themselves and don’t often ask for much in return," Terry said. "I work for a wonderful school, I have great kids here. They’re so excited, the parents are excited, everybody’s voting and it seems like everyone is in it to win it for me.” 

Voting for the finalist round of the competition closes Thursday. You can vote for Elizabeth Terry on the contest’s website.

All proceeds raised from the competition go directly to Teach For America, a leadership development organization that aims to expand learning opportunities for children.

Hunter Morrison is a news reporter at KDLL
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