Savannah-Chatham Teacher of the Year Finalist: Barbara Rupnik, Marshpoint

This is one in a series of articles on each of the five finalists for the 2022-2023 Savannah-Chatham County Public School System Teacher of the Year.

After Barbara Rupnik’s dream of working for NASA didn’t come true, she fell in love with American Sign Language after having two teachers who contacted ASL.

“Both teachers were themselves deaf and were native American Sign Language users,” she said. “It really inspired me to want to go to class and teach American Sign Language as well. “

Teacher of the year finalists

The 2022-2023 finalists for Savannah-Chatham County Public School Teacher of the Year are:

• Lauren Fuquea of ​​Beach High School

• Barbara Rupnick from Marshpoint Elementary School

• Melody Senia from Southwest Middle School

• Gina Smith from Groves High School

• Elizabeth Whalen of the Charles Ellis Montessori Academy

Rupnik is one of five finalists vying for the 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year award for the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS). She will participate in a process that will involve classroom observations and panel interviews over the past two months. A winner will be announced at the annual gala on February 11 at the Marriott Savannah Riverfront. A winner will be announced at the annual gala on February 11 at the Marriott Savannah Riverfront.

Cherie Dennis, Teacher of English Speaking Other Languages ​​(ESOL) at Hesse K-8 School, has been named Teacher of the Year for 2020-21. Dennis retained his title for 2021-2022 due to the pandemic. She is also Georgia State Teacher of the Year.

Read more:Savannah-Chatham County educator named Georgia teacher of the year

Rupnik is at Marshpoint Elementary School, where she has taught since 2006 and joined SCCPSS in 2007. She is one of four district teachers who teach deaf and hard of hearing students. In class, she communicates with her students via ASL.

She taught at various elementary schools, middle school and four years at Groves High School. In addition to working at Marshpoint, she also teaches at Coastal Middle and Islands High School.

She also teaches a sign language course at Georgia Southern University.

Fall in love with the tongue

She got her first glimpse of sign language when she was part of the Girl Scouts.

Rupnik said that even though she is not a native communicator of the language or personally knows someone who uses it, she still enjoys the language.

Savannah-Chatham County Public School Teacher of the Year finalist Barbara Rupnik sighs with a student at Marshpoint Elementary School.

Rupnik said teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult because his students needed to see the language visually. Rupnik said she and her students had to wear a transparent face mask or face shield to communicate.

Even with the challenges, she said the pandemic has allowed her to be more engaged with parents. She was able to teach sign language to parents so that they could help and communicate with their child.

“I love the language and I love the culture of the deaf,” she said. “I really want my students’ educational experience to be worth it and teaching them in their mother tongue is an amazing thing. “

Rupnik said the thing she loves most about teaching is seeing her students succeed.

“With sign language being so close and dear to my heart, it’s a beautiful language in and of itself and the fact that my students use it, and not everyone knows it,” she said. “It’s hard for me to accept that I want everyone to know this. So we can all have equal and open access to communication.”

Rupnik recalls a time when she was working with a student who wanted to play in the band. She said she remembers how she, a switch, and the group’s teacher helped the student now learn to play the clarinet.

Rupnik said she was honored to be a finalist for Teacher of the Year.

“Just such an honor and a blessing,” she said. “To be honest, when they called out the names, I was cheering on all the other teachers.”

She said it’s important for everyone to have a way to communicate with others. The only difference is that his students use sign language.

“The more people know about communication and the possibilities that our students have, you know, how to communicate with them, it really makes a difference in their life,” she said. “It gives them the spark to want to keep going and to challenge themselves to do bigger things. It means something to the students. They look at you and they say to themselves, wow, you take the time to learn my language. . You are taking the time to show me what I need to know. “

Bianca Moorman is the educational journalist. Contact her at [email protected] or 912-239-7706. Find her on Twitter @biancarmoorman.

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