She may be the 11th of 14 children born to Puerto Rican immigrant parents, but Linda Ares is number one in the hearts of students and co-workers at Tipp City Schools.  The Tippecanoe Educational Endowment recently presented its prestigious Teacher of the Year 2009-10 award to the sixth-grade Language Arts teacher.  Nominated by Darlene McClurg, Pam Liebhard and Andrea McKinney, Ares was surrounded by about 20 family members and more than 110 community members at the annual T.E.E dinner and fund-raising gala that took place on February 13, at The Crystal Room in Troy.

Ares, who has spent her entire 20-year career with the Tipp City School district was selected from six entrants based on her exemplary service and dedication to students, staff and community.  “She is a naturally gifted teacher,” McKinney said, “whose competence, caring, sincerity, and dynamic personality make her an inspiration for all who know her.” Ares has taught in third and fourth grades at Broadway Elementary and fifth and sixth grades at Tipp Central Intermediate before redistricting relocated her to the sixth-grade wing at Tippecanoe Middle School. Ares has also worked as a special education teacher, Intervention Specialist, Summer Academy teacher,  ESL translator, tutor, and  track and volleyball coach.  She has been completely involved in all aspects of school life.  She is an eight-year member of Delta Kappa Gamma, is instrumental in maintaining and stocking a food pantry at her church, and has raised funds for the Lymphoma Society by not only completing two half marathons, but also one full marathon in Alaska.

“In addition to academics,” Ares said, “I feel that teachers instill values.  The strongest one of those is work ethic.”  According to her nominees, Ares exemplifies the ideal of work ethic. “She is very committed to her job and her students.  She shows her commitment by putting in countless hours after school mentoring other teachers, grading papers, communicating with parents, preparing lessons, and organizing her classroom.  Ares is recognized among her peers as a great collaborator, always willing to share ideas and exceptional lesson plans as well as how to execute the plans in the classroom.  “One only needs to see the students gathering around Mrs. Ares, talking to her, and hugging her to know that she has had a huge impact on their lives,” McClurg said.  She greatly motivates them to seek high goals just as she has always done. ”

Ares is currently working toward National Board Certification.

The biggest change that Ares has seen during her career is that education has “shifted from being a learning-centered environment to a testing-centered environment.”  She believes teachers are more limited and that creativity tends to be somewhat stifled.  “Testing has some value,” she concurred, “I just don’t like how they use the results.”

When asked to articulate one goal she would like to see to fruition, Ares passionately expressed, “The one thing that is close to my heart right now is trying to put full inclusion into place in Tipp City Schools.  Getting special education students into a regular classroom is beneficial to them.”  She appreciates having the full support of her principal, Greg Southers, and assistant superintendent, Dr. Gretta Kumpf.  Ares says at this time it is just a matter of limited resources.  “We don’t have all the staff required, but we are really trying.”

Summing up her career in one sentence, Ares said, “Teaching is living my passion, it definitely is.”  Her philosophy is, “If you are not passionate about teaching children, get out of the classroom!” In her nomination application, her co-workers said, “We think that one of Linda’s secrets in being a great teacher is her ability to remain a student, always searching for new ideas and keeping her classroom open to new approaches in education.”

Ares and her husband, Frank, have been married for 37 years.  They have three adult children and eight grandchildren.