Lorrie Hill

Lorrie Hill of PawPaw has been teaching for 29 years, the past two at Eisenhower Middle School, where she teaches students in the special education program. Hill says, “I will never teach mathematical equations to my class like I would a regular educational class,” but she does teach the concept of money. “Reading and writing for my students does not consist of reading novels, writing essays,” but her students will learn how to communicate, write their names and answer questions to the best of their abilities. An observer of Hill’s classroom remarked, “The lesson content makes all the difference in the present and future life of the students”! Molly Priest, a 2019 Golden Apple teacher award recipient and fellow Eisenhower teacher, says Hill inspires her to be a better teacher. Priest wrote, “Miss Lorrie has taught me a great deal about love, compassion and commitment through a form of pedagogy that demands all your heart, soul and courage.” Hill says, “Things that we do easily are struggles for my students. I hope to help them overcome these struggles. Small steps in my classroom lead to great victories.” One activity vital in our pandemic-era world is one that some might take for granted but often causes sensory problems for her students: hand washing. Hill’s students practice daily. A popular activity Hill has initiated is a student-run coffee cart business, “Beans and Chow.” Students learn about communication, acceptable social behaviors, patience, counting and how to succeed while they offer refreshments for administration, teachers, staff and other students. Hill said, “I have one student who started off last spring looking at the floor when she talked and needed step by step prompts on what to do and say as she ran the cart. This fall, this student is independently making coffee, loading items on the card, is more confident with her money skills and interaction with peers and staff.” Non-verbal students participate using personal technology devices. The skills students learn through the coffee cart are also practiced during community outings when they go shopping or interact with people they don’t know. One volunteer observed, “With every interaction, she was teaching critical thinking, problem solving and how to build relationships and life skills.” Another observer noticed that “with each student, Ms. Hill has a warm and fun rapport. She holds them accountable while maintaining a great relationship.” Assistant Principal Stephanie Hess wrote of other opportunities Hill provides. “This past fall, her class organized the school’s uniform closet that is used for any student in need. Her class was responsible for sorting, laundering and stocking the closet by clothing size and type.” She also shared that Hill has taken the students to an orchard where they picked apples, shopped for ingredients then baked pies. Several observers admired the environment in Hill’s classroom. One said, “She has created an environment of order, acceptance, calm and fun for these students.” Priest wrote, “General Education students are often seen giving high fives and words of encouragement to Ms. Lorrie’s students. Our hallway is a family with empathy and compassion, thanks to the teachings of Ms. Lorrie. These students are a large part of Eisenhower’s culture. When Ms. Lorrie’s students were quarantined, we all had an off week because we were missing a part of our day.” Hill’s dedication and methods are best seen through the successes of her students, one of whose mother wrote, “You worry about how your child will adjust and participate in school. From day one of meeting Miss Lorrie, she assured me that my son was in good hands.”