Asbury University – Educator of the Month: Tracey Werkheiser

Pull up a chair in Tracey Werkheiser’s fifth grade classroom — you’ve got lots of choices. Along with a traditional desk and chairs, students can settle into a bean bag chair or perch on a balance ball chair. How about a table and chair set from IKEA, or a furry, cushioned stool? If you don’t like sitting, take a bar stool at the “standing station.” It’s called flexible seating and when officials at Northern Elementary in Georgetown accepted the experiment they naturally chose Werkheiser. After all, nobody embraces change like her. Just look at her resume. Out of high school, Werkheiser worked as a finance manager while teaching a Bible study class at church. “The course had a curriculum that we followed and I loved it,” she said. So she came home, told her husband she was going back to school and put her high heels in the closet for good. She was 30-years-old and the mother of two at the time. Six years later, Werkheiser earned her bachelor’s degree and celebrated by joining the Army Reserves. At 36, she endured basic training. After basic, she flew home on a Friday and started student teaching that Monday at Northern. The school hired her full-time and she has taught fifth grade for eight years. Is flexible seating working out? “I think it’s really great because I enjoy watching the students learn in a setting that they feel comfortable in,” she said. “Our classroom is more like a home setting so I think there is less pressure.” Werkheiser also has championed technology innovation. She has used Lego Mind Storm to help students and her Student Technology and Leadership Program members learn about computer programming, video creation and even GPS tracking. Two years ago, she added the VEX I.Q. robotics program and all of her teams qualified last spring for the world competition in Lexington. The STLP and Robotics after-school programs meet Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Throw in a faculty meeting on Wednesday and Werkheiser is pretty much a school fixture. “She’s an awesome teacher and always the first one to volunteer for anything,” Principal Rachelle Schjoll said. “She’s innovative and a teacher leader. The staff looks to her for advice.” Said Werkheiser: “I live for the ‘aha’ moments. Students love it when I tell them that they’re learning something they’re going to use the rest of their lives.”