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After spending three decades in education, Sherry Adamcyk, a fourth-grade teacher at Frontier Elementary School (FRES), says she still walks into her classroom feeling like a rookie.

“I feel like a brand-new teacher,” she said. Her feelings are not for lack of qualifications or experience, but because it’s the first time she’s back to being a general education classroom teacher.

In her 31 years, Adamcyk has been known as the “jack of all trades.” Her titles have included, Grade 3/4 Combination Teacher, Primary Math & Reading Interventionist, High School Swimming & Diving Coach, and Building Technology Specialist. She’s also taught third, fourth and fifth grades combination classes, sometimes all within the same year. No matter the position, Adamcyk rises to the occasion, educating students despite the title she may hold.

For the last nine years, Adamcyk was the FRES Science Teacher, meaning she interacted with every student in the building, no matter their grade level. She encouraged her students to always ask questions and develop a love for how the world works. But, starting this school year, she was presented with a new position, becoming a full-time fourth grade teacher, a title she hasn’t considered since she first started teaching 31 years ago.

“Sherry has a heart for students,” explained Heather Walker, a former FRES employee. “When FRES needed a fourth-grade teacher, she was willing to give up her passion of teaching science to the entire school to become a classroom teacher.”

Adamcyk said, “I couldn’t let these students have another chaotic year.” After the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide teacher shortage, Adamcyk knew this group of students needed consistency, and an educator they could rely on.

“Knowing I could step in and become their stability, I had to do it,” she explained.

Now seven months into the position, Adamcyk said she’s found her fit. Teaching fourth grade is how she started her career in education. Little did she know, her path back to her own classroom would come with a rollercoaster of events.

Coming to ASD20

In her own words, Adamcyk’s career has been exciting and nothing short of chaotic. Her first teaching job landed her at Jewell Elementary School in Aurora, Colorado, the same school she attended as a child. With a plethora of teachers and not enough students, Adamcyk was let go in 1997. After losing her dream position, Adamcyk started working as a long-term sub within the school district.

Trying to move closer to her family, she accepted a classified position as a Technology Teacher at Elizabeth Public Schools. Even though the job didn’t match her qualifications or appropriate pay-scale, she was determined to see it through and wait for the title change. During this time, Adamcyk earned her master’s degree in computer information technology from Regis University and worked two extra jobs to make ends meet.

After seven years, no change came. Deciding to venture out of her comfort zone, Adamcyk started applying to other school districts, knowing they’d likely come with a longer commute.

“I’ve gone through struggles to find my place,” she said. In 2004, Adamcyk found her permanent home, becoming a teacher at FRES. While her position has changed several times over the last 19 years, she finds strength in her teammates, her students, and the community at FRES.

Why Education?

For a moment, Adamcyk considered giving up her career in education altogether. She briefly took a job working for a soda distributor over Winter Break, before having nightmares of two-liter towers toppling over her. After three weeks, there was no doubt in her mind, education was where she belonged.

“For me, it always comes back to the students,” she explained. She thrives when students are learning and having fun at the same time. As the science teacher, Adamcyk used creative resources to make her curriculum relevant while keeping students engaged.

Using an alter-ego, Adamcyk pretended to be her twin sister, a mad scientist who lives in Hawaii. During their conductivity lessons, the mad scientist would visit and try to melt student’s ice-cubes. As a team, students used their knowledge on insulation to prevent their ice-cube from melting.

“Having fun through experiments was important. I don’t need my students to love science, but I need them to love learning about it,” she explained.

Educating and Inspiring Students to Thrive

Inspiring students to thrive in Adamcyk’s classroom begins with safety. While teaching technology, students are taught how to be safe online and in science class, safety comes in the form of goggles and gloves.

Above the rules and guidelines of each classroom, Adamcyk encourages her students to feel safe. She said, “we build an environment here where everyone can be included, and free to be who they are and accepted. That is how we take risks. We do it in a safe place,” Adamcyk explained.

She encourages her students to embrace their differences because they each have a purpose. She asks herself, “Can they be who they are? Or do they have to guard themselves? When you talk to my students, they’ll be able to tell you, this is a safe place.”

Rapid Fire Questions

What is your why?
“My why is always the students. I want them to achieve whatever they want. I have a student who wants to be a video-gamer. He’s so creative and sometimes in his own world, but I support that world. If they’re struggling in reading, I tell them, ‘I’m going to push you, so you can meet whatever dream or goal you have.’”

Tell me about a time a student made a lasting impact on you.
“When I was a Building Technology Specialist at Frontier, I found a third-grade student in the hallway one day in tears. I asked what was going on and why he was upset. I already knew this student struggled in reading and writing. He wanted to do an extra credit report on dragons to help his grades but could not find or read anything to help him with his report.  This was not a teacher assigned project, but he wanted to be a better learner and to do good in school, even though he knew it was very difficult for him.  

I gave him a tissue, a hug, and the biggest smile. I told him I was proud of him for wanting to do his best even when it was hard. After walking him back to class, I asked his teacher to borrow him for a bit in the computer lab. We worked together on finding information for his report, so he was able to present it to his class. I share this story with my students to help them understand; it is not about your abilities, it’s about your desire and willingness to do better each day that makes you better learner and person.”

What do you do in your day to value all students?
“I listen and I’m always asking questions. Sometimes that means being silly with them. I try to end their day with jokes, something humorous or joyous. When we’re celebrating an achievement, we applaud as a classroom and celebrate their big and little wins.”

What keeps you going on the hard days?
“Chocolate. Always chocolate. But mostly, dark chocolate with caramel. Actually, it’s my teammates! It really is the family we have created here at Frontier. They have helped me so much over the years! Plus, they know to bring me chocolate if I’m having a hard week.”

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
“A cross between teleportation and mind-reading. Teleportation because it could cut my commute time and I’d get to sleep in a little. Mind-reading because I’d like to understand what students are struggling with and focus on what they need.”

When you were a student, what did you eat for lunch?
“Pizza! I’ve always been a pizza-holic.”

What is your favorite school-supply?
“Sharpies, expo markers, sticky notes and chocolate!”

Is there a quote that inspires you?
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  A.A. Milne - Winnie The Pooh

Adamcyk explained, “it reminds me that when I face tough times and things are hard that I can do it and that I am capable!  My hope is that I have instilled that belief to all my students over the years.”