High school special education teacher Ashli Dreher's commitment to her students and community - and her close collaboration with parents - make her an excellent choice to represent all of New York's caring and dedicated teachers.
In her classroom, students with special needs receive a mix of research-based instruction and innovative lessons. Her focus on community and volunteerism makes her a sterling example of what happens when great teachers and concerned parents work together on behalf of our children.
Dreher, who began teaching in 1996, directs the life-skills special education program at Lewiston-Porter High School. One mother called Dreher "the miracle worker" for unlocking her autistic son's mind and engaging him in learning. Among other activities, Dreher and her students host four dinners each year to recognize student achievement, involving parents and other family members in helping students develop important life skills. She also places her special-needs students in internships with local businesses to better prepare them for the workplace.
Dreher has earned national certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and, since 2004, has served as the Western New York coordinator for the union's Education & Learning Trust, which provides professional development courses to teachers across the state.
Her dedication to professional development and best practice, and to sharing what she has learned with her colleagues across the state, is in the best tradition of teachers helping teachers grow as professionals.
We also congratulate the other 2014 finalists for state Teacher of the Year:
Abbe Guillet, a French teacher at C.W. Baker High School in Baldwinsville;
Emma Kress, an English teacher at Cicero-North Syracuse High School in Cicero; and
Jeanine Nielsen, a chemistry teacher at Monticello High School in Monticello.
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