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SSD Teacher of the Year helps students achieve success

Tammy Topp may be known at Litzsinger School for collecting enough Campbell's soup labels to buy iPads, but her colleagues said that's just one example of how she goes above and beyond for students.

Topp, SSD's 2012 Teacher of the Year, earned the honor for her dedication to students and her innovative efforts to help them achieve success.

Inside and outside of the classroom, Topp demonstrates her commitment to her students and the Litzsinger School community in many ways. She serves on numerous school committees and frequently donates her time to prepare for Litzsinger events including graduation, Fall Harvest Night, the school picnic and holiday program. She is also active in other organizations that benefit Litzsinger students, such as the Carney's Kids Foundation and the Special Education Foundation.

As coordinator of the Labels for Education program at Litzsinger, Topp helped collect more than 800,000 Campbell's soup labels that recently helped purchase 14 new iPads for use with the school's students.

"She will never brag or tell you about all the things she does. She's kind of the silent person who makes things happen," said Janet Matthew, a speech-language pathologist at Litzsinger and one of the five people who nominated Topp for the award.

With 23 years of teaching experience, Tammy focuses on her students' strengths and is constantly looking for new ways to help them achieve success. In the words of Jenifer Majino, one of her nominators, "Tammy inspires small steps to reach large goals."

Topp said the keys to being a good teacher are flexibility, maintaining high expectations for students, persistence and maintaining a realistic outlook.

"I believe that all my students have the ability to learn. That learning may not look like the learning of his or her nondisabled peers, but my students are learning in their own creative and adaptive methods and at their own pace," she said.

Topp's positive impact on students with special needs extends into her personal life. She and her husband served as foster parents for and later adopted their daughter Catrina, a former Litzsinger student who now attends Neuwoehner High School.

Topp said she was surprised and humbled to receive the district's Teacher of the Year award and credited her SSD colleagues for their support in helping her grow as an educator.

"To be recognized for something that I am passionate about is definitely the biggest honor in my teaching career," she said.

Topp will represent SSD next year in the statewide competition for Missouri Teacher of the Year, a program sponsored by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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