When Pam Honey started working full time at King Elementary School five years ago, she was a 47-year-old new teacher who was fulfilling her dream, but at the same time worried she had made the right choice about starting her career so late.
Honey said her worry disappeared in May when she was named one of 20 winners of The Smith Center’s Heart of Education award.
“I just started crying. … I’m just so proud to represent our community and our school,” she said.
The Heart of Education award honors Clark County School District teachers who show that “teaching is an art, delivered from the heart.” Thousands of teachers are nominated every year, and 799 semifinalists are selected. Of those hundreds, Honey and 19 others were chosen as the winners.
Honey teaches third grade and said she had always dreamed about being a teacher. She decided, however, to stay home with her children after her son was diagnosed with autism.
Once he was older, she started her career at King.
Jenny Wammack-Freshour, who nominated Honey for the award this year and last year, was one of her first students. She joined Honey’s class after the school year started because students were shifted to accommodate attendance numbers.
She said Honey sparked her imagination.
“She helped me feel loved,” she said. “She made me very excited to learn and very happy.”
Wammack-Freshour’s mother, Christina, said Honey gave her back her daughter.
Christina Wammack-Freshour said at the start of daughter’s third-grade year she wasn’t doing well and would come home crying, hating school and not wanting to learn.
“Within a week of Jenny being in her (Honey’s) class, she was happy … excited and ready to be back at school,” she said. “That meant the world to us.”
Jenny Wammack-Freshour, who just finished seventh grade, said one of the things she learned in Honey’s class was to sing about a problem to help her figure out what to do. She said she still does that today.
“I usually use it in everyday life, like in math,” she said. “When I’m asked to solve it, I remember how she did it. I always use her method when she helped me.”
Honey said she knew she was in the right place with teaching after learning she had received the award and how she had impacted Jenny Wammack-Freshour and her mom.
“This calm and this gratitude just enveloped me,” she said. “That’s your dream to … make a difference.”
Honey also said she was grateful that Principal Anthony Gelsone hired her.
“He took a big chance on me,” she said. “He just made it wonderful for me to be able to blossom in the Happy Honey Hive.”
The Happy Honey Hive is Honey’s classroom, and all the bees, students, have to be happy and sweet to stay in there. Honey said it helps the students process all their feelings, especially when they are angry or sad.
“We are so proud of Mrs. Honey for receiving the Heart of Education Award,” Gelsone said. “Her passion for teaching and the relationships she builds with her students and families are amazing. The ‘buzzing’ in the Honey Hive and the ‘woot woots’ is the happy place students look forward to walking into year after year. She is truly a teacher that makes a huge impact on her students’ education and their lives. She is the teacher that her students will remember their entire life.”
Each of the 20 winners received a $5,000 cash prize, and their schools received $1,000 to be used for a program selected by the winner. Honey said she also received a gift bag full of items when she was named a semifinalist.
Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at email@example.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.