Fort Osage High School English teacher Lindsay Thompson couldn’t help but get emotional Monday.
She was named the 2016-17 Fort Osage R-1 School District Educator of the Year in front of her mother and her daughter in attendance.
“Oh gosh, I cried,” Thompson said. “I tried not to. Then (Fort Osage director of public relations) Stephanie Smith put a camera right in my face and I was like, ‘Oh gosh.’ It makes me teary eyed just thinking about it now.”
The thought of earning this award, let alone being a teacher, was far from her mind when she was a student at Fort Osage High School, a school she graduated from in 1996. She had four generations of family members who were teachers before her and she thought she had her mind made up that she wouldn’t go down that path.
“I didn’t want to be a teacher because four generations of teacher were before me and I didn’t want any part of that,” Thompson said. “As a teenager, I said, ‘Nope. That’s not me.’”
When she went to Avila University, there were several careers she was considering – pre-law, pre-medical and writing. She decided to pursue a Bachelor in Arts in English and received it in 2001. She later got Master of Education from William Woods University.
Then near the end of her senior year, one of her professors offered her a bit of advice.
“I had a professor who said, ‘Writers are poor. You might struggle. You might need to think about education,’” Thompson said. “I was like, ‘Oh no. I don’t think I want to be one.’ Then she said she thought I would make a good one.”
Turns out her professor’s prognostication came true.
In 2001, Thompson was student teaching at Raytown High School and said she “knew she had fallen in love.”
“It was a good day because I knew that this was what I was supposed to be doing,” she said. “(Educators) kind of had to woo me to her side.”
She began her career at Fort Osage High school in 2002 and taught there for six years before moving down U.S. 24 to teach at William Chrisman for seven years before returning to her alma mater in 2014.
“When Ms. Thompson came to us from the Independence School District, it was kind of a win for us,” Fort Osage principal Scott Moore said. “She comes and does a great job building a relationship with the kids. And she also has a lot of knowledge on common core and the standards and ELA.”
Three days ago, she was interviewed by a committee of four people after being chosen as the Fort Osage High School Building Teacher of the Year. She was then chosen out of eight other teachers to receive the Educator of the Year award.
She will now attempt to become the district’s third state finalist in school history as she will attempt to become Missouri’s Educator of the Year.
She has had success as a teacher because of her ability to build relationships with students while balancing a high expectation of work from her class.
“My students would probably say (her teaching style) is a little intimidating,” Thompson said. “I have really high standards. Students work until they get it right. If we are writing a particular essay and their analysis isn’t deep enough or their sentence structure isn’t good enough they do it again.”
Moore said he feels Thompson’s teach style is effective.
“She can get the kids to come out of their shell,” Moore said. “She finds out what their interests are and find a way to bring them to her class.”
Thompson also has a unique style of teaching in which she allows her students to teach the class often and has them come up with questions about a certain text or book they have read. Also any time her students write a paper or read a book, Thompson does so as well.
“I am not a paper passer outer of worksheets. We don’t really do worksheets,” Thompson said. “They create everything that we do. Whatever I ask them to do, I do as well. If I ask them to write, I write. If they read something, I read it. I try to put myself into their shoes as much as I can.
“The best learning happens when I am not in charge,” she said. “They are responsible for their own learning and I facilitate that. I went to a conference years ago and something very significant was said. They explained whoever is talking the most is learning. And that made total sense to me. If I was the one talking then I was the one learning that day and not the students. Since then I try to limit how much I talk in class.”
Her knack for teaching in general led to a big school year for Thompson. Not only was she named Educator of the Year, she also was named the new girls head basketball coach after Dawn Williams decided to step down this year.
“I went to the steak fry for many years and saw other teachers win awards so it was really cool to have my friends and family there when I received the award,” Thompson said. “I am a teacher whether I am teaching English, thinking and writing or teaching basketball skills at the gym, I am a teacher.”