News From Terre Haute, Indiana


January 13, 2014

Captivating: Each day starts with a dance

Teacher’s innovative methods excite kids for day of learning, net her award

TERRE HAUTE — Kindergarten teacher Tina Ficklin had no idea what awaited her as she entered the Hymera Elementary gym Monday.

She was in for a pleasant surprise, and not just a student body to cheer her on.

Ficklin, who’s taught for 12 years in Northeast Sullivan School Corp., was named a Peabody Energy Leader in Education for 2013-14 and awarded $1,000 for her dedication and commitment to students.

She can use the money however she wants. “I may or may not tell my husband,” she teased later.

The program rewards dedicated education professionals — from teachers and coaches to librarians and counselors — who inspire and motivate young people to succeed. Recipients are nominated by a school community and later selected by a committee of educators and business leaders.

Peabody Energy will give out 103 such awards in states where it has operations, said Maureen Moore, director of the company’s Leaders in Education program.

Hymera Elementary Principal Tara Jenkins said Ficklin is deserving of the award. “She is so enthusiastic with the kids,” Jenkins said. “She’s a positive influence on not only students, but also staff.”

After she accepted the award, Ficklin told students and staff, “I love, love, love teaching school, and I love, love, love getting to work with the staff that we work with and each and every one of you. And I love, love, love that I got $1,000.”

Ficklin strives to motivate each student by using a variety of learning techniques. Every morning her students sing and dance as soon as they arrive to get fired up for a day of learning.

A believer in partnering with parents to ensure students are keeping up with the curriculum, Ficklin frequently has center-learning days in her classroom, at which parents run stations with a variety of activities for students.

She also established the Hymera Elementary Student Council this year; the school hasn’t had one in many years. “I thought our children needed to be exposed to being a leader,” she said.

She also has partnered with teacher Mindy Lent in applying for and implementing “Fuel up to Play 60” NFL grants. Through the grants, the teachers have started walking clubs, had a dance party for older students, created a “biggest loser” event for staff, and staged a health fair. The grant also encompasses health education for students.

“I truly love what I do,” Ficklin says, and it shows in her energy and enthusiasm.

She’s taught at Dugger, Shelburn and Hymera elementary schools, the last six years at Hymera.

Among the things she does each day is greet each child at the door. Each child, every day. “I call each of them by name as I greet them at the door. I create comfort that way, I think,” she said.

She always opens the day with music “because music is the pathway to lots of things people don’t realize,” including reading, numbers and more.

Her biggest passion is teaching children to read.

In working with diverse learners, she said she approaches each child as an individual. Sometimes, one child’s need on a given day might be a hug, while another child might need to push academics.

Times are trying for teachers in public education, but Ficklin stays focused on why she does it. “I guess for me, it is seeing the children’s growth. That’s what keeps me energized,” she said.

During the assembly, Moore asked children to thank not only Ficklin, but all the teachers who work hard each day to help students be successful. “These people do something very special every day,” Moore said.

In past years, both Lent and Jenkins have won the Leader in Education award.

The Leaders program was developed in Missouri in 2009 and reflects, according to a company news release, Peabody’s commitment to making a positive impact in the communities where the company’s employees live and work by honoring those who inspire students.

The 2013-2014 award program is continuing to accept nominations and is open to educational professionals of public, private and independent schools in designated communities where Peabody Energy employees live and work.

Nominations can be made at www.PeabodyEnergy

Peabody operates Bear Run Mine in Sullivan County; the mine has more than 600 employees.

Each 2013-2014 Leader in Education will be honored at an awards gala after this school year, where one will be named Educator of the Year and awarded $5,000.

Another Wabash Valley honoree is Julie Evans, a Bloomfield Junior/Senior high school math teacher.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or

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