KENSINGTON - Amy Steinberg's family, friends and colleagues know she's always had a passion for teaching.
Now it's time for the nation to know as well.
A fifth-grade teacher at Kensington Elementary School, Steinberg is one of 10 finalists in a national "Great American Teach-Off" contest sponsored by the online community GOOD and the University of Phoenix.
The five-week contest - with a $10,000 prize for the winner - requires Steinberg and other finalists to create weekly videos around specific themes. For this week's theme, "How am I an innovative teacher?" Steinberg spoke about the different ways she approaches lessons to reach the different learners in her class.
"This is what I was born to do. It's in my blood. My grandfather was a teacher, my uncle is a teacher. I have several aunts and cousins in the profession. It's what we do," said Steinberg, who learned a lot from her late grandfather and often thinks about him when she's in front of her class.
She's also working on other videos along with the parents of her students, who must create a video endorsing her.
It's now up to the public to choose the teacher they feel is most deserving of the prize. Each week, two finalists will be eliminated based on the lowest vote totals. The teacher remaining at the end of the five weeks will receive a $10,000 classroom grant.
Public voting began March 4. Votes can be cast by visiting www.good.is/GATO.
Steinberg was nominated for the contest by a parent and school board member whose twin sons are in her class this year. The nomination process involved a lengthy essay portion that included questions about how she's an innovative teacher, helps kids to love learning, and her work with the community. She was entered into the contest at the end of January and was notified last week that she was one of the 10 finalists from the kindergarten to grade six category chosen from thousands who entered.
Steinberg has been teaching for 10 years. Her career began at Smyth Road Elementary School in Manchester, and after teaching at other schools around the country, she landed her job in Kensington three years ago.
"I think what keeps me going every day is the sheer excitement I see on my students' faces when they 'get' something. They light up, and their self-confidence skyrockets. It's even better when they run right up to another classmate and help them to understand it as well," she said.
Steinberg is now trying to spread the word about the contest to pick up more votes through a Facebook page and other means, but she's not sure how she'll spend the $10,000 if she wins. She said she might split it, using half to buy 20 Google ChromeBooks so that all of her students have access to technology throughout the day. The other could be used to buy new science supplies.
School principal Barbara Switzer called Steinberg an "exemplary teacher" and said she and the staff are thrilled that she was nominated.
"Her enthusiasm and love of teaching makes all students want to be in Mrs. Steinberg's class. The parents also speak very highly of her expertise as an educator . She has a passion for making sure that all students learn and she knows how to excite each individual student about learning in all the content areas," she said.