USD 480 Teacher Feature - Sylvia Villa

This week’s USD 480 Teacher Feature is Sylvia Villa, first grade teacher at Cottonwood Elementary. Mrs. Villa has been teaching first grade at USD 480 for the last 14 years, but has been part of the Liberal community since she was in third grade herself.

“USD 480 is my home,” said Villa. “I attended Washington Elementary, West Middle School, and Liberal High School. It is a place that has given me the opportunity to grow as an educator.”

Mrs. Villa credits growing up in the Liberal community that always encouraged her to give back to others and helped her realize her passion for teaching.

“Growing up and being exposed to a compassionate community, I was always drawn to do the same to give back,” said Villa. “My purpose as a teacher is to give students the same sense of compassion that I had growing up in this wonderful community.”

Mrs. Mettlen, Cottonwood Principal, couldn’t say enough about Mrs. Villa’s compassion for others and dedication to teaching. Mrs. Mettlen says her impact extends beyond the classroom and that she serves as an example for others at Cottonwood as well as throughout the district.

“Mrs. Villa serves as an exemplary model for our students and fellow USD 480 colleagues,” said Mettlen. “Her dedication to the children in our community goes far beyond the requirements spelled out in her job description; she has touched the hearts of many and will continue to do so as long as she remains in the field of education.”

Mrs. Villa’s impact at Cottonwood and throughout the Liberal community was recognized this past year as she was named Cottonwood Teacher of the Year by the students, parents, and community.

“I am honored to receive this recognition. There are so many educators in our school district who work to put students first and will do anything to help students achieve academic success,” Villa said.

Mrs. Villa (center) poses with Assistant Superintendent, Lana Evans (left) and Cottonwood Assistant Principal, Kelsi Robinson (right) after being named Cottonwood Teacher of the Year this past October.

Mrs. Mettlen sees the impact Mrs. Villa makes not from the recognition, but from the success her students have as they progress throughout the rest of elementary school and beyond that.

“She has created an atmosphere of positivity and set the stage for a smooth transition into the next phases of their education,” said Mettlen. “Mrs. Villa works tirelessly to build relationships with students and her ability to connect with her students and meet their needs is unmatched. She makes learning fun and engaging in her classroom. Mrs. Villa meets every kid where they are and believes every student can accomplish big things.”

Just a few moments in her classroom and it is obvious that her students are excited and engaged in what they are learning. Her classroom is fun and interactive, so much so that students might not even understand how much they are learning through their activities.

“As educators, we try to make learning fun and engaging by doing room transformations, stem activities, project-based learning activities, etc. We do not do this for us, we do this for the students,” said Villa. “Our jobs can be exhausting but to hear a student say, ‘This is the best day ever!’ when performing a science activity or ‘Math was hard but now it is easy for me!’ is enough to keep you going with your overall purpose as an educator.”

Mrs. Villa works with her first grade students on their math problems during an afternoon this fall. She does a great job making sure her all of students understand how they got the answer.

In addition to being named Cottonwood Teacher of the Year, Mrs. Villa was also named USD 480 Elementary Teacher of the Year this past year and has been nominated for the Kansas Elementary Teacher of the Year as a result of that.

“I feel honored to be part of this recognition that the district has for educators,” said Villa. “I do not perform my job to be recognized by anyone. I perform my job to empower students to become the future world changers.”

Mrs. Villa (center) again poses with Assistant Superintendent, Lana Evans (left) and Cottonwood Assistant Principal, Kelsi Robinson (right) after being named the USD 480 Elementary Teacher of the Year this past October.

“Mrs. Villa strives to meet students' academic needs and social emotional growth,” said Lana Evans, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education. “She provides a calm and engaging environment for students to learn. She provides guidance, support and thoughtful reflection when collaborating with her peers. We are honored to have Mrs. Villa represent the elementary schools as our Teacher of the Year.”

Mrs. Villa’s impact on her students and fellow educators is apparent in so many ways. She is always quick to volunteer for roles and responsibilities outside of her normal duties. She is part of the first grade team at Cottonwood and is always quick to help new or fellow teachers when they find themselves searching for solutions.

“The list of Mrs. Villas’s contributions to her students and the staff at Cottonwood is never-ending; she never fails to volunteer at parent engagement activities, student festivities, and staff celebrations,” said Mettlen. “However, her greatest contribution may be the unrelenting positivity and genuine cheerful approach she brings with her to school every day.”

“There are times that you question your why or question if the job you are doing is making a difference; however, when those doubts arise I choose to see my purpose in my present and past students. Their successes are a drive for me. I have always believed in providing my students with high-quality instruction filled with respect. Being able to give back to students and their families fills my heart,” Villa concluded.