Neeli Boyd Chosen as District’s Teacher of the Year

03.08.2017 6:52 AM

Neeli Boyd, a 1st-grade teacher at Wiley Post Elementary School, was named Putnam City Schools’ “Teacher of the Year” during the district’s annual celebration of teaching excellence on Tuesday, March 7.

“What a tremendous honor. I’m so proud to be part of Putnam City, first as a student in the district and then as a professional. I can’t think of a better place to be,” Boyd said in accepting the award.

Boyd’s interest in teaching began as a helpful child at the side of her mother, who taught in Putnam City for 38 years. Boyd’s childhood is full of memories of helping on projects when her mother needed an extra hand and playing school in her mother’s classroom.

After graduating from Putnam City West, Boyd went to the University of Oklahoma planning to earn a degree before heading to law school. Instead she found herself in college captivated by general education classes and enthralled by learning about child development. Dreams of law school were replaced a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and plans for a teaching career.

Boyd is now in her 8th year of teaching, all of it at Wiley Post Elementary. She taught 2nd-grade during her first six years at Wiley Post before moving to 1st-grade last year and this year.

According to Boyd, teaching begins with building and maintaining relationships. That process starts even before students even come to school. At Wiley Post there is a tradition of teachers visiting students in their homes before the beginning of the school year. In the past eight years Boyd estimates she has made more than 100 such home visits.

“It is such a special time for me to visit their home, say hello, see those precious smiling faces and start building very important rapport with new families,” she says.

During the school year she continues building relationships with her students, first in a classroom that is a “safe and positive learning community” in which academic needs are assessed and met. Relationships flourish further as Boyd attends her students’ extracurricular activities such as basketball, soccer, football and softball games and recitals and musicals.

“It is very important to me to care for and teach every child, the whole child. I work hard to create an environment where all of my students know that I love them,” she says.

Boyd pours herself into all aspect of her job. She has obtained donated coats for children who did not have them, acquired “wobble chairs” so that students can move to help their minds stay focused, and supplied 24-ounce water bottles for every student in her room to make sure their brains and bodies are hydrated and healthy. On Fridays students are invited to join her for lunch in the classroom, an event that draws a crowd each week. A few summers ago she started a book club with Wiley Post students, meeting at the public library twice a month to keep students engaged in literacy. Earlier this year she helped organize an event with Feed the Children to coincide with Wiley Post’s Back-to-School night, providing books, food and other goods to more than 600 families.

“In order for a child to be successful academically, a teacher must also nourish and tend to social, emotional and physical needs. It’s my job and my joy to figure out how to help students do well, not only in school but in all aspects of life,” Boyd says.

Boyd’s teaching colleagues describe her as “passionate, dedicated, positive and relentless and finding effective ways for all of her students to achieve success. Her principals see those traits in action every day.

“She’s an amazing teacher. She loves her kids and does anything and everything to make sure they’re learning,” says Kimberly Harper, a principal at the school.

Sheryl Rexach, also a principal at Wiley Post, sees the same things Harper does.

“Ms. Boyd takes is a warm, caring teacher to each student in her classroom. Like all good teachers she cultivates relationships with her students and uses their interests to engage them in learning. She teaches students the academic and social skills they need to be successful learners. She’s a simply a superb teacher,” Rexach says.