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Pullen teacher paints bright future for students

Julie Woodard

ROCKWALL/HEATH, TX (October 5, 2014) We’re just six weeks into the school year, and Pullen Elementary teacher Julie Woodard is busy making a lasting impression on her fourth graders. The award-winning Rockwall ISD educator has a teaching style that is, in her words, “messy, sticky, reflective, fun, challenging – and of course, student-driven.”

Using all sorts of media – from tortilla shells and jenga blocks to coffee beans and iPads – Julie’s often unconventional instruction is designed to “help kids’ learning stick” (even if it means having a school board member unexpectedly drop in while she’s standing on a chair demonstrating the movement of an African Water Buffalo).

Julie’s creativity and passion inspires students to do and be their best. From social studies to languages arts, she has spent nearly 15 years in the RISD, teaching through experiences. After all, she says, “I would rather my students remember an era of history based on a picture they created rather than a date they memorized.”

Julie is obviously doing a lot of things right. She was named 2013 Pullen Teacher of the Year; 2013 RISD Elementary Teacher of the Year; 2014 Region 10 Elementary Teacher of the Year; and 2014 Texas State Teacher of the Year Finalist. In May, she received the 2014-15 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award, along with RISD colleagues Brittany Seymour and Jennifer Doss. Formal awards presentations werepresented to these ladies last week.

Blue Ribbon News recently caught up with Julie, and she graciously agreed to be part of our Good People profile series. But humble as she is, she credited her achievements to her “hard-working husband of 32 years, four crazy kids, two amazing in-law kids, her grandbabies and God.” When we interviewed Julie, it became a family affair – with her children and Mom providing some of these answers for her, all-be-it with a sense of humor…

Julie Woodard created this painting of the home she and her husband are building in Heath.

Where do you live?

My husband, Scott, and I are building our own home in Cove Ridge. It’s a labor of love. Today, I paint laundry room cabinets and this weekend we work on closet interiors together. 

How old are you?

I don’t do numbers. Ask me about integrating instructional content or how to paintSouth Americaon a tortilla…and we’re all winners. I’m old enough to be a Grandma and young enough to color with crayons.

Your high school and alma mater?

Lakeview High inBattle Creek,Michigan. There are a few Yankees in Rockwall, including Mark Speck, the RISD Executive Director of Human Resources, who also hails fromBattle Creek. There are a few Western Michigan University Broncos as well, including my husband and Mr. Speck. We are Broncos at heart. My high school was a purple and white school, and I’ve been teaching at a purple and white school for 14 years. My youngest daughter is at a purple and white school. She’s a TCU honor student senior.

Tell us more about your family.

Can I answer this question with only emoticons? Please?

Tony and his wife, Amanda, and three of our grandbabies live inVirginia. Kristin and her husband, Taylor, live in Ft. Worth with our youngest grandbaby girl. William lives inDallaswhere he works at Watermark Community Church. Sara graduates TCU in May.

Any pets?

Let’s just say I’ve bought many a bag of dog food, cat litter, stain remover and air freshener.

Some people know you as ‘Cereal Mom,’ and your email address reflects that. Why?

It’s partially from a movie called Serial Mom, and partially from my hometown, the Cereal Capital of the World – home of Kellogg’s, Purina, Post Cereals, the world’s longest breakfast table and, my favorite, Tony the Tiger. His creator lived just down the street from me. But don’t worry, I’m not a serial killer.

What are your hobbies?

Making gifts for people –using any media I’m in the mood for: fabric, toilet paper rolls, paint, buttons…ooh, I love buttons and clothespins! Quilting – that’s a fav. Painting a house or painting a canvas or doing something else while thinking of painting.

What are you most passionate about?   

Time with family, gift-giving, world cultures, creative projects – especially collaborative ones, teaching, travel (to see my grandkids!), and dark chocolate.

Tell us something others may be surprised to learn about you.

(Julie had a lot of help from her kids on this one; we suspect none of it’s true). I’m a HORRIBLE housekeeper. I hardly ever cook. I’ve never been toCanton or Ham’s Orchard. I’ve never been on Pinterest. I have no musical talent at all (again, it’s a numbers thing) but I love music. I don’t like anything in a tortilla, or pasta, or sushi.

Tell us about any clubs or organizations you’re involved in.

I’m a member of the Education Board of the International Museum of Cultures, the Association of Texas Professional Educators and the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. I’m also a Sunday School and VBS Teacher at First Baptist Church of Rockwall. I enjoy leading students in “Writers for Fighters,” composing letters and cards for our military troops.

Julie Woodard painted this for her classroom.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a teacher?

For me, it’s the “after.” I have a lot of former students who write to me. I am pen pals with them and I love hearing how they are doing.

I’m having an awesome time this year with a fabulous team and 106 amazing fourth graders who come to school everyday ready to learn something new.

Any special plans for your language arts students this school year?

(Julie’s kids really nailed this one…)

My name is Woodard and I came to say:

Subject-verb agreement is the Pullen way

to rock the test scores but more important-ly

to learn communication for my socie-ty.

[Drops mic]

If you were to give someone advice about a teaching career, what would it be?

Don’t give up. Sometimes it’s going to be super hard and sometimes it’s going to be super great. Embrace both.

Anything else you want to share?

(Again, Julie’s kids had a hand in this…)

I really love German beer. Wait. Did that just mess up the “wholesome teacher” thing we had going?

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By Dawn Redig, Blue Ribbon News.

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