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Local News

PA’s ‘Teacher of the Year’ Spends Summer Encouraging Other Educators


Danielle Smith, Producer

Wednesday, July 19, 2023   

At the start of this year, a Pennsylvania middle school teacher was chosen among 12 finalists statewide to receive one of the profession’s highest honors, and he’s been busy since then.

Ryan Hardesty, a seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher at Highland Middle School in the Blackhawk School District in Beaver County, has traveled the state to collaborate with other educators, since becoming Teacher of the Year.

He believes the goal of education is to meet the needs of the diverse set of learners coming into his classroom, through engaging and rigorous work to push them to reach their full potential.

“I believe in building relationships with kids, trying to make class engaging and interesting for them, so that they want to come, they want to participate,” Hardesty explained. “And hopefully in that process, then they’ll learn something, because they’re more willing to engage with you and participate.”

Last week, Hardesty represented the Commonwealth at the National Teacher Leadership Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Pennsylvania is home to more than 100,000 educators and 1.7 million students in grades K-12.

Hardesty emphasized it is important to have some fun in the classroom, which for him, means incorporating costumes or rap music into some lessons. While summer break provides a much-needed respite for Pennsylvania students, Hardesty stressed it is crucial for parents to battle what has become known as the “summer slide,” with strategies to keep kids learning and engaged.

“I think something that parents can do to really help with that is just read with your kids,” Hardesty urged. “I think that’s one of the best ways to prevent summer slide is just to try to encourage your child to read. Whether that’s reading aloud to them, if they’re younger, or have them read the chapter, and you read the same chapter in the book and talk to them about it. I think that’s a great way to kind of push them over the summer.”

Hardesty, a Beaver County native, noted he was inspired by great teachers to pursue a teaching career. He added he is encouraging his students to become educators so they, too, can make a difference in people’s lives in their community. 

This story first appeared in Public News Service, a member-supported news site to engage, educate and advocate for the public interest.