At Prairie Trace Elementary, Amanda Dillon’s kindergarten classroom is known simply as Bearsville.
Her room is full of teddy bears, which creates a comforting environment for her kindergarten students to learn.
“In my time as an administrator and as a teacher, I have honestly never witnessed anything like the magic that is created in Amanda Dillon’s classroom each and every day,” Prairie Trace Elementary Principal Jill Shipp stated. “Motivating kids is her area of expertise, and she incorporates different novelty incentives and interactive adventures throughout the year. Amanda is dynamic in her creativity, relentless in her pursuit for every child to be successful and proactive about adding new knowledge to her repertoire.”
Although Shipp and her colleagues were not surprised Dillon was named Stephen A. Backer Teacher of the Year for Carmel Clay Schools for CCS, Dillon certainly was.
“I was completely caught off guard, because just to be recognized at Prairie Trace was an honor I couldn’t have even imagined. There are so many amazing educators that are my colleagues,” Dillon said. “One of my kindergarteners screamed, ‘This is the best day ever!’ I was like, ‘You are echoing exactly what I’m thinking now.’”
At that point, she was one of 25 CCS Teacher of the Year semifinalists honored at an April 25 banquet.
“I was in awe hearing all these stories from the amazing educators in Carmel,” Dillon said. “Nowhere in my wildest dreams did I think my name was going to be called.”
Dillon, a Purdue graduate who has spent all 27 years at CCS, began her career as a fifth-grade teacher at Forest Dale Elementary in 1992. She taught fifth grade for three years and then switched to first grade. She started at Prairie Trace when it opened in 1998 as a first-grade teacher before moving to kindergarten in 2008.
“When I moved to first grade, I wanted to create this culture of love, care and concern,” Dillon said. “Through teddy bears, I thought I could make this comfortable place for students to be. I wanted to create a community where children felt loved. I wanted to create an immediate connection with them, help them feel safe and let them know it’s OK if you make a mistake.”
Dillon started Bearsville at Forest Dale but it has evolved and grown through the years.
“I do more with it now than I used to,” Dillon said.