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Heather Bond – Orchard Hills Elementary

Mrs. Heather Bond is a first grade teacher at Orchard Hills Elementary School in Santaquin, Utah. In my opinion, Mrs. Bond is very deserving of this recognition for many reasons. She has a gift for making her classroom a real community. Recently my daughter, Sabrina, was telling me about a boy in her class who was playing with her at recess. I said, “Is Parker your friend?” She quickly replied in a matter of fact way: “Everyone in my class is my friend.” As someone who has taught 1st grade before, I know this is not an easy thing for a teacher to create-this tangible sense of community and friendship among classmates. I believe most teachers want this for their students, but few can truly achieve it like Mrs. Bond has. There is a buzz in the air in her classroom and it’s exciting and special to witness. Not every classroom has it. Ever since the beginning of the year, I have heard about ‘build ups’. Mrs. Bond teaches her students to be kind and say things that are positive to ‘build up’ each other. Since the beginning of the year, Mrs. Bond has had large playground photographs of groups of her students on her wall. The pictures are labeled with their names. The kids are all smiling and happy and I am sure that when the kids look at their picture on her wall each day, they know they are special and important to their teacher. Mrs. Bond has gotten many new students throughout this school year. I know this because my daughter has come home telling me, with lots of excitement in her voice, “We are getting a new student tomorrow! I can’t wait to meet him/her!” This excitement is completely generated by Mrs. Bond. She truly gets the kids excited to meet their new friend. It is a given that the new student will immediately become a friend of everyone in the class. How fun and lucky for these new students! I’ve noticed that the names of new students go up on her wall immediately-she wastes no time in making these new children a part of this inclusive classroom community. It is a safe and happy place where her students know they belong.

Once my daughter came home telling me that Mrs. Bond said that they are the best class she’s ever had. When I have been in her classroom and seen how well everyone gets along and how smoothly her classroom runs and how well the students respond to Mrs. Bond, I believe it! Mrs. Bond uses a very motivating management plan in her classroom. Almost daily my daughter talks about the class earning buttons in a jar for class rewards and having her magnet moved up for individual rewards for good behavior.

I asked my daughter, “What do you like about Mrs. Bond?” When she didn’t immediately respond, I said, “Do you like her?” Her response was, “Yes I love her. She’s the best teacher.”

“She teaches us our doubles (double digit addition). I like when she says hello to me when I’m really early to school-she smiles.” I know my 6-year-old can’t quite put it into words, but I know Mrs. Bond has helped Sabrina feel important and valued. At each of the three parent teacher conferences over the course of this school year and through email correspondence, Mrs. Bond made me feel like my daughter was important and special to her and that Sabrina learning how to read was her top priority. I have no doubt that Mrs. Bond made all of her 24 students (and parents) feel the same way.

Sabrina writes Mrs. Bond questions on the back of her timed math tests and Mrs. Bond always responds. Sabrina is my oldest child and therefore the first child in our family to go to school all day. Sometimes I reluctantly send her to school, only because I feel that 6 hours is a long time (for me) to have my child away from me and from home. However, I know she is in the best hands and getting a wonderful education from a teacher who is passionate about teaching and who does an impressive job.

Mrs. Bond loves her job and this can’t be faked. Teaching is much more than just a paycheck and job that begins at 8:30 am and ends at 3:45 pm. I know firsthand that she gets to school very early and stays late, way beyond her contract hours. She told us at the most recent parent teacher conference that she would give each student her address at the end of the year with hopes that they can write to each other over the summer. This is definitely going above and beyond what is expected of her as a teacher. She doesn’t do the minimum – in fact I can honestly say she does the maximum! She surprised us one Friday after school when she dropped off my daughter’s lunchbox at our house that had been left at school so that Sabrina wouldn’t worry about it over the weekend. Another time, she hand delivered a homework assignment that had been forgotten at school.

Having been a first grade teacher, (and having taught 1st or 2nd grade for a total of 5 years) I’ve worked with and known many teachers and I know just how good of a teacher Mrs. Bond is. Mrs. Bond has been very patient with me as an anxious parent experiencing first grade for the first time with my oldest child. It is quite different to be the parent and not the teacher! It has been comforting to have this experienced and dedicated teacher to lead my daughter and I through this foundational year of elementary school. Mrs. Bond responds quickly and professionally to any communication (email, notes). I have kept a close eye on my daughter’s reading skills this year and when I have had concerns Mrs. Bond has been there to resolve them. She provided Sabrina with sight words and vowel sorts to help her with her reading skills.

Birthdays are important in Mrs. Bond’s classroom. For their birthday, each student receives a handmade birthday book where all the kids have drawn pictures and written ‘build ups’ to the birthday child. Mrs. Bond also gives a small gift. My daughter was the only child in her class this year to have a summer birthday and Mrs. Bond let her celebrate in January for her ½ birthday.

What else do I love about Mrs. Bond? She gives meaningful assignments, has the kids do fun projects, her classroom is extremely neat and organized, there is student work everywhere in the classroom, and the things she has on her walls are meaningful and not clutter. She is just an excellent teacher.

We live across the street from the school and from my front window I can see that my daughter literally runs to school every day and then skips home. She loves to be the first one to the classroom in the morning. School makes her so happy. What more could a parent ask for?
For me it is very bittersweet to see this school year quickly coming to an end. We just moved to Santaquin last fall and I feel so fortunate that Sabrina’s first teacher and school experience at Orchard Hills has been so positive. Every elementary school child deserves to have a teacher like Mrs. Bond. Every child would be very lucky to have a teacher like Mrs. Bond.

–Kristin Collins