By Traci Moyer/The News Leader
WAYNESBORO — Paula Jesalva sat in awe listening to the commitment, enthusiasm and devotion of the educators recognized from each school within the county as nominees for the Augusta County Public Schools teacher of the year.
“Oh my goodness,” Jesalva said. “It was very humbling to hear everyone else’s accomplishments, and I don’t see how I could have won.”
Jesalva, who teaches English as a second language at Fort Defiance High School, was chosen from among 21 other teachers for the honor on Friday during the county schools’ annual luncheon. Teachers received their nominations by peers.
The nominees were credited with innovative ideas along with a deep caring for children as each worked outside of their job descriptions to spark the imagination and ignite a passion for learning in their students.
“During her tenure, Paula Jesalva eats, sleeps and breathes her job,” said Fort Defiance High School Principal Larry Landes. “She epitomizes what our wonderful profession is all about.
“Thanks to Paula, 60 kids have graduated from high school,” he said. “If it weren’t for her energy and enthusiasm, passion and love for kids, for many of those kids, that dream would not have become a reality.”
Jesalva has taught at Fort Defiance High School since 2001 and teaching since.
In 1993, Jesalva relocated to the Philippines where she taught English as a second language, U.S. history and U.S. literature.
Head held high, Fort Defiance High School teacher Paula
Head held high, Fort Defiance High School teacher Paula Jesalva sits with her award beside her after being named teacher of the year for Augusta County Schools in a luncheon in Waynesboro on Friday, April 15, 2016. (Photo: Mike Tripp/The News Leader)
Jesalva said during her time overseas she learned what it is like to be a foreigner in another country and not be able to speak the language or understand the culture. The experience has given her a glimpse of what her students experience on a daily basis.
“I see many of my students go through the same stages of assimilation that I did, as they struggle to learn English, make friends, pass SOLs, and go on to graduate and establish careers,” Jesalva says on the school’s website. “It’s a difficult process, but I’ve seen such resilience and determination in many of my students.”
Jill Martin, Augusta County Public Schools director of personnel, said Jesalva has “incredible presence in her student’s lives outside of school,” including tutoring students in their home, attending parent-teacher conferences for her students’ younger siblings and assisting with basic needs of their families.
“The connection she makes with her students are truly above and beyond and have a positive life-sustaining effect on the entire family in helping them become an intricate and important part of the Augusta County school community,” Martin said during the luncheon.
As her name was announced, Jesalva stood and walked slowly toward the front of the room. After the luncheon she said she was stunned by the honor which was bestowed upon her.
“It is very gratifying that my work with students is respected and honored,” she said