Northeast Tarrant

Area Teachers of the Year focus on encouraging kids

Amy Evans
Amy Evans

Carroll and Grapevine-Colleyville district officials recently announced their 2016 Teachers of the Year for elementary and secondary schools.


Laura Follett struggled in school so much that she had to repeat the second grade. Third grade was her toughest year, but a caring teacher at W. A. Porter Elementary in the Birdville school district helped her realize she could learn.

Now Follett teaches third grade at Dove Elementary School where she builds relationships with all her students but can identify in personal way with those who find school difficult.

“I have a heart for struggling learners. You have to find the way they learn,” Follett said. “Everyone learns differently, and it’s okay to be different.”

Kelley Willmann, a veteran with more than 20 years in teaching and a math teacher at Grapevine Middle School, is the secondary teacher of the year.

Willmann started out teaching elementary but soon realized that she enjoyed middle school students more. While some teachers avoid that level, she enjoys “a little bit of crazy” that comes with the middle school years.

She focuses on keeping high expectations but encourages those who may have difficulties inside or outside the classroom. Building relationships with students is her key to success.

“Kids respond to you more than they respond to the material,” Willmann said.


Amy Evans, a first-grade teacher at Old Union Elementary, didn’t dream of being a teacher as she grew up. She wanted to be an actress.

Part way through her college years at Texas Christian University, she realized she didn’t want to dedicate her life to acting. When she happened upon education, something clicked.

Now she enjoys being front and center for young students.

She focuses on loving her students and helping them learn. Evans remembers the power of positive and negative words from her former teachers and strives to give them feedback that will build them up.

Leslie Elkins, an eighth-grade language arts and gifted-talented teacher at Carroll Middle School, focuses on each student’s unique needs and learning style.

In her Teacher of the Year application, Elkins talked about working with a student who had failed the STAAR test. By focusing on bolstering his confidence with small tasks, she helped him build skills and become a better student.

Like many other successful teachers, she intentionally builds relationships with her students. She strives to build a caring community in her classroom, acknowledges how emotional struggles can impact academic progress and expects excellence in the end.

Sandra J. Engelland: 817-390-7323, @SandraEngelland