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Extraordinary Educator: Leslie Canady

Great communities have great schools. High Point Schools Partnership creates impactful connections between our schools and the wider community to ensure students and their families are supported and can reach their full potential in High Point schools.

Part of High Point Schools Partnerships’ mission is to improve the image of our schools through storytelling. Who better to tell the stories of High Point’s schools than the people experiencing it first-hand? In this series of articles, we will highlight our 2022 High Point Extraordinary Educators as we dive deeper into what keeps them motivated in the face of constant challenges.

2022 Extraordinary Educator: Leslie Canady

Leslie Canady started her teaching career at Southwest Elementary three years ago. She keeps coming back for the supportive environment. They have incredible educators who are genuinely good people outside of school as well. They’ve helped her become a better teacher.

Michelle Thigpen, former principal of Southwest Elementary School, describes Mrs. Canady as a “ kind, effective, and strong instructional leader” who “is loved by everyone for her kind heart and effective teaching techniques.”

According to Thigpen, Mrs. Canady “always has a smile on her face and is willing to do whatever is needed to help a student be successful.” “She takes time to get to know each individual student’s strength and area of need.”

Mrs. Canady wants her students to know “thank you.”

She goes on to say “They have all left lasting impressions, challenged, and changed me for the better. I’ve learned just as much from them as the students have learned at school. I would hug every one of them and let them know they are seen, valued, and appreciated, not just as learners but as unique individuals and wonderful human beings. I’d make sure they understand how deeply loved they are. I try to conduct myself in a manner that makes this evident.”

Q: What inspired you to become an educator?

A: I started teaching at age seven. My cousins, cabbage patch kids, and Teddy Rupskin were my first students.  After class lunch was always served; a Little Tykes kitchen set doubled as the cafeteria. I know that play was inspired by the impression my teachers had on me. I grew up in West Point, Virginia and I loved school. The teachers there were remarkable. Our kindergarten teacher entered us in a young author’s competition. I’ve been able to show that 35-year-old story with its stick-figure illustrations to the students I now teach. My 4th-grade teacher, Mr. Smethurst, recorded his wife reading aloud the entire social studies textbook, and we’d stay after school to listen and review each unit. I thought of him every time I recorded a lesson for Canvas during remote learning. Mrs. Taylor-Banks looked me in the eyes in 5th grade and told me I could be an attorney, work at the White House, or do anything I set my mind on. I get chills thinking about it. Every child deserves a teacher who looks them in the eye and speaks life. I’ve had other opportunities professionally but always worked with kids in some capacity. My family, our church, and the teachers in our community, combined with previous work experiences lay a foundation that brought me where I am today.

Q: What’s your teaching/leadership style?

A: My teaching style is always evolving. I spend a lot of time thinking about the best way to reach students, the best way to explain a strategy so kids understand. Great teachers can’t teach every lesson the same; we have to be flexible enough to meet individual needs. Former students might say I’m laid back, funny, calm yet consistent. I have high expectations for everyone, but always leave room for the kids to have fun and be themselves. The best thing about the classroom year after year is the personality students bring! I’ve always admired servant leaders and strive to make sure kids feel appreciated and valued for who they are. I’m not going to be the loudest, shiniest person in the room, but I am going to do my best, work hard, and let the work speak for itself. I know students are not going to do more for me than I am willing to do for them.

Q: Do you have a classroom motto or philosophy you abide by? Why?

A: I love the phrase, “If it’s right for kids, it’s right.” There can be a lot of pressure on educators and it’s easy to get lost trying to meet demands or outdo yesterday’s lesson. I like to have fun, keep it simple, and keep the kids at the center of my decision-making and instructional practices. Students are always my primary focus; I try to reserve energy for the classroom and craft lessons around their interests.

Q: What’s your favorite part about every day?

A: The best part of each day is the interaction with my students and colleagues. I value the moments we get to learn about each other personally. I love when students share their writing or thoughts about a text, which often includes information about their lives and interests outside of school. I love knowing their family trees, favorite restaurants, and the names of their pets. I enjoy hearing about the family trips fellow educators are planning and watching their children grow. Both groups make me laugh and keep me humble. I am proud and honored to be on this journey with them.

Q: What’s your most memorable moment as an educator?

A: Being awarded Teacher of the Year at Southwest is my most memorable moment to date. It’s always an honor to be recognized by peers. The best teachers out there can only be as great as their connections with the students. I know the students challenge me to be better, and the honor is also a reflection of their willingness to engage in learning. The moment does not happen without them and their energy, so I will always remember their questions, smiles, and positive relationships with one another when I think about this school year.

Q: Is there any other information you would like us to share with the community?

A: I’d love for anyone reading this to support local educators. Schools need supplies, volunteers, and classroom parents. We love supportive notes or encouraging words. If you have a family member or neighbor who teaches—or if you live close to a school—make time to reach out. If you already do, thank you. There’s a lot of misinformation circulating regarding public schools and teachers specifically. The truth is, that educators are always reflecting on our methods, dreaming up ways to make lessons better. We’re awake at night thinking about our students and their families. Many of us are parents too. And yes, we are planning and organizing in the summer, preparing to make each year better than the last. A community can only be as strong as its schools. If you have talent, treasure, or resources and are willing to share, please do. Students may benefit from your generosity today, but ultimately we all reap the rewards. I would like to thank the High Point Schools Partnership for recognizing and valuing the efforts of educators in our community.

Mrs. Canady is just one of High Point’s 2022 Extraordinary Educators. Tune in for the next few weeks to hear more stories and inspiring moments from our local teachers!

Thank you so much to Leslie Canady for your dedication to High Point’s students. Congratulations on being selected as your school’s 2022 Extraordinary Educator!

To find out more about High Point Schools Partnership and our work, please visit our Facebook page and check out our page on Guilford Education Alliance’s website.

Article written by High Point Schools Partnership Staff