Who:

Denise Ianni.

School:

Joseph Ferderbar Elementary School, Feasterville.

Achievement:

Ianni, a fifth-grade teacher at Ferderbar Elementary School, has been named teacher of the year by the Rotary Club of Feasterville. Ianni, of Holland, was nominated by her fellow teachers. She will receive her award on Tuesday at the annual Rotary dinner at Twining Hall in Feasterville.

Ianni has spent nearly all her teaching career in the Neshaminy School District. She began as a substitute teacher more than 25 years ago while still in school at Arcadia University (then called Beaver College) in Glenside. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the school. Ianni worked as a special education teacher for 15 years at Lower Southampton Elementary School before becoming a fifth-grade teacher at Ferderbar.

Seeds:

"At a very young age, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I was a student at a parochial school so for a long time I thought I had to become a nun to become a teacher. I did a weekend-long retreat at a convent and realized, hmmm, maybe there's another way to become a teacher. That pleased my mom because she was hoping for grandchildren."

Special education Karma:

"In high school there was a family in my neighborhood, and they had a special-needs child and I was friends with his brother. I would go to his house and play Bingo and teach him his numbers and letters. I was about 14 and thought, this is what I want to do."

Pre-Karma:

"I was born in Brooklyn. My family did a lot of traveling. I lived in Europe and Saudi Arabia. My dad worked for Arabian American Oil Company. By the time I started school, we had moved to Trevose. I went to parochial school: Assumption B.V.M. in Feasterville and Archbishop Wood High School for Girls."

Teaching debut:

"It was so exciting, because I graduated in January and I started subbing for Neshaminy immediately. By the time of graduation, I was already in a long term substitute job. I had to take a day off from work to go to graduation."

Different strokes:

"I want to take the kids from where they are and move them to the next level, but not as a whole because they don't all come to me at the same place. I try to look at students and their individual learning styles and talents, and [I] try to offer choices of assignments for students so that they can stretch themselves. We talk about what's fair; it's not fair to be the same with everyone because everyone doesn't have the same skills."

Change of heart:

"After having [taught special education] for 15 years, I felt that for myself, I needed a change. I needed to professionally grow and move in another direction, so I went back to school and got a certification to teach general education."

A surprise win:

"My building principal came to me and said 'I need to talk to you because I want to make sure you'll be available on June 3.' I thought that there might be some school event I was needed for. When she said, 'You were selected by your peers for Rotary teacher of the year,' I was just stunned."

Kudos from her peers:

"That's a true honor - because the people who I work with work so hard everyday to meet the needs of a very diverse population of students. To be honored by them is really a delight."

What her principal says:

"Besides truly caring about the kids, which comes through in all that she does, she can motivate kids to learn where other teachers cannot," said Judy Brown, of Ferderbar Elementary School. "She's respected for her approach and her ability. She's always able to engage them in a lesson or activitity, and her experience speaks for itself."

- Kristin E. Holmes