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Emerson honors two FHSD teachers with Excellence in Teaching Award

Emerson honors two FHSD teachers with Excellence in Teaching Award

By: Lydia Hamby

Kristy Giacomarra and Sarah LaRue join an elite group of St. Louis area educators selected to receive the 2023 Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award. The Emerson Excellence in Teaching Awards, now in its 34th year, is one of the St. Louis region’s most acknowledged teacher- recognition programs. The awards honor teachers for their passion for teaching, their impact on student learning, and their knowledge and creativity in the classroom. The recipients are chosen for their outstanding contributions to the teaching profession and to the students they teach. 

Kristy Giacomarra has worked in FHSD for 29 years and has taught  English Language Learners (ELL) for the past seven years at Harvest Ridge. Kristy also had the opportunity to teach kindergarten, 1st grade and 3rd grade before she found her home in English Language Learners.

After Giacomarra transitioned to the ELL department, a number of things changed for Harvest Ridge - a result of her passion and drive for all students to succeed. The school’s ELL population quickly gained an increase in achievement scores due to high engagement in Giacomarra’s classroom, her relationships with students and her collaborative approach with classroom teachers. 
Harvest Ridge Principal Natalie DeWeese, who nominated Giacomarra for this award, credits Giacomarra for building trusting and positive relationships with families to help increase family engagement in school. 

“One of the biggest points of pride for her is the many hours she puts into coordinating and planning a schoolwide Culture Night each year,” she said. “Kristy is dedicated to making sure all families are included and have the opportunity to share during this wonderful event.”

Sarah LaRue has been an English 3 and AP English Literature and Composition teacher for 11 years at Francis Howell Central High School (FHC), where she teaches juniors and seniors. 

FHC Principal Suzanne Leake nominated LaRue for the Emerson award.

“Sarah is a fantastic educator who has had a tremendous impact on our school for more than a decade,” said Leake. “She is a remarkable instructional leader at FHC and she has left a mark on both her students and our school community, standing out among the many wonderful teachers that are here at FHC.”

LaRue engages students cognitively, and promotes critical thinking. She routinely employs cooperative learning strategies, academic circles, and other academic techniques that ensure every student in the classroom becomes prominently involved in the classroom learning. 

One year ago, LaRue took on the challenge of teaching AP English Literature and Composition; her results were outstanding. For the first time in school ,100% of students enrolled in AP Lit and Comp earned a score of 3 or higher; 25% of her students even scored a 5. 
These results are a testament to LaRue’s ability to cultivate a stimulating learning environment and implement effective instructional approaches that lead to gains in student learning. 

Beyond academics, LaRue focuses on creating a safe and inclusive classroom where students feel valued, respected, and prepared. 
The Emerson Excellence in Teaching Awards program, sponsored by Emerson, annually recognizes more than 100 educators in the St. Louis metropolitan area – from kindergarten teachers to college professors – who are examples of excellence in their field.