Teacher of the Year: Noble Crossing’s Amanda Thorner wins Noblesville Schools district honor


By Sadie Hunter


Noblesville Schools has finished off the school year by awarding its 2015-16 Teacher of the Year honor to Amanda Thorner, a resource special education teacher at Noble Crossing Elementary.

Thorner is credited, with fourth-grade teacher Gina Mertens, with bringing a co-teaching model to Noble Crossing.

“I think when I first came here, (the special education program) wasn’t necessarily one-size-fits-all. We had several kiddos who didn’t really fit inside that box,” Thorner said. “So, trying to kind of develop different programs and implement the curriculum so that all kids could access their education appropriately, with the first couple of years, that was the big focus with meeting the needs of those kids. Now, that has shifted to that co-teach approach, doing that whole inclusion piece and getting the kids to really take on that growth mindset and help build peer relationships.”

The program focuses strongly on including students with special education needs with their peers rather than segregating them.

“The great thing about it is, the kids, they just see each other as kids, and so some of the time they’re with Mrs. Mertens, some of the time they’re with me. Sometimes we’re in the classroom, and sometimes we (go to the library.) It really breaks those boundaries and those walls down for the kids,” Thorner said.

The co-teaching program just completed its second year at the school.

“It’s just something I had done some research on to further develop our program,” Thorner said. “I remember going to Mark Booth, our director of special ed, and saying that we’d really like to try this … He really helped guide and facilitate that process. We’re always trying to stretch our boundaries and our thinking … When I was a cadet teacher (at Tri-Central High School), I was always kind of given the kiddos that needed that little extra push, so that’s where I started to develop that passion (for special education).”

On May 11, Thorner received, as a surprise, her teacher of the year award among her peers at a Noble Crossing faculty meeting.

“I was completely surprised. I did not expect it at all, and obviously, I’m completely humbled,” she said.

A committee that works across the district’s 10 schools picks the teacher of the year of the group nominated by their peers. The committee makes their selection based off the following criteria: student-centered, inquiry-based Miller Shift classroom instruction; performance aligned with the district’s mission and vision and role-model behavior that other educations look to emulate.

Last year, the district brought the award back after nearly 30 years, in which Bethany Robinson, a high school music teacher, was honored. Noble Crossing’s Principal Pat Haney nominated Thorner, who was chosen of the district’s approximately 650 teachers.

Thorner said she hopes to continue to expand the special education inclusion and co-teach programs.

“Next year, we’re looking at how we can appropriate more staff members to continue to expand and grow that program,” Thorner said. “Right now, I’m responsible for fourth- and fifth-grade students. Next year, I’ll be expanding to third grade.”

Thorner was honored June 1 at the Noblesville Education Foundation’s annual Miller Gold Awards teacher recognition ceremony and dinner reception. She will now go on to represent Noblesville Schools at the state Teacher of the Year competition.

Get to know Amanda Thorner

Lives: Moved to Noblesville in 2004 after getting hired at Noblesville Schools. Grew up in Sharpsville (in Tipton County).

Education: Graduated from Tri-Central High School (Sharpsville) in 1998. Went to Ball State University, graduating in 2003 with a double major in elementary education and special education.

Job experience: First teaching job was at Taylor Primary Elementary School (Kokomo). “I worked for a year there. I just basically walked out of student teaching and walked straight into a job that was there,” Thorner said. “I started at Noblesville Intermediate School when there was such a thing. I was there for, I think, five years. When Mr. (Pat) Haney (Noble Crossing principal) left the intermediate school, I came here.”

Family: Husband Chris, married 12 years. Daughter Isla, 7.

Amanda Thorner’s accomplishments

Noblesville Schools identified the following points as Thorner’s accomplishments during her time at Noble Crossing Elementary:

  • Creating unique opportunities for students far below grade level that have significantly reduced their learning deficits.
  • Serving as a district leader on special education issues.
  • Mastering the use of student data to best address needs and monitor progress.
  • Exhibiting a passion for building and maintaining relationships with students and their parents.
  • Launching co-teaching at Noblesville Schools (with fellow Noble Crossing teacher Gina Mertens), furthering the collaboration between special education and general education instruction.
  • Driving her own professional development by constantly researching and implementing new, successful teaching strategies.