Saline Media Specialist honored for making a difference in education
One of Saline’s best was honored as part of Teacher Appreciation Week.
Mary Ledford, the media specialist at Pleasant Ridge Elementary School, was a great pick to recognize and show appreciation to in honor of all of the hard work teachers and school staff has been doing this school year.
It was recently announced that Epic, a leading digital reading platform for kids 12 and under, awarded a $2,500 cash prize to Ledford during Teacher Appreciation Week.
“Mary was selected as an award recipient because of her passion and dedication to inspiring students with a love of reading and learning during a very challenging year of remote and hybrid teaching,” the announcement said.
Epic reaches 50 million children.
Ledford has been in education for over 24 years with the past 20 years with Saline Area Schools, where she has been in the elementary setting as a classroom teacher and now in her current role as a media specialist.
Hearing about this exciting news, The Sun Times News reached out to Ledford to get her reaction and to learn more about her.
The first question was what do you love about teaching?
“In the simplest terms, I love making a difference and investing in a child's educational journey,” Ledford answered.
“When I was teaching in the classroom, the joy of seeing students feeling empowered to take on challenges, grow academically and build community were some of the greatest rewards. There were days I thought my heart would burst when my students and I shared smiles, triumphs and growth,” she said. “It was fuel for the days that were a bit more challenging.”
Wanting to make a broader impact, she said recently left the classroom to take on a new challenge in the Media Center where she now serves both staff and students.
“I saw so many really good teachers feeling overwhelmed by the demands of the job that I felt I needed to use my talents in a new way,” she said. “I have taken my knowledge of the reading and writing curriculum in the classroom and combined it with the technology and media center standards to support classroom instruction, front load the technology and instill a love for reading. The role is very different, but many of the joys I experienced as a classroom teacher are still there daily! I cannot imagine doing anything else.”
The award announcement said, “Her passion for technology integration and love of children's literature led her to discover Epic, where she has been part of the Master Teacher program for two years. When she is not happily teaching her students, you will find her on her yoga mat, drinking a great cup of coffee, or buying a fabulous pair of shoes!”
So what originally motivated her to go into teaching?
“Growing up, my mother would tell me stories of teaching her students with learning challenges,” she said. “Hearing the pride in her voice as her students accomplished goals, inspired me. I was that child who had created a classroom in her bedroom with stuffed animals and dolls. Eventually I started tutoring children in the neighborhood. It felt very natural to use my creativity to help others learn, but I didn't enter the profession until later in life.”
She said she started her college journey, but left during her senior year to raise their son. After a "10-year maternity leave" and three children later, she said she found she had lost many of her college credits and had to take more classes.
“Having more life experience and raising three very academically different children was the incentive I needed to go back and get certified,” she said. “I've never regretted it! I love what I do.”
As for the cash prize…
“Epic! was incredibly generous and I would be greatly remiss if I did not allocate some of the money back into the education community,” Ledford said. “Our family has established a memorial fund in honor of our son, Dean. We supply school supplies and mini-teaching grants for under-resourced students and teachers in Washtenaw and Wayne counties. We are coming up on our spring fundraiser and it will be used to support the fundraiser and the school supply drive in August.”