Borrowing her mother’s words, Tria Hummel says she “was born to teach.” The Canton Elementary Summit Academy Community School for Alternative Learners teacher seems to defy common-day perceptions (perhaps, misperceptions) about teaching: that it lacks creative freedom, that students who previously slipped through the cracks cannot catch up, that teachers must be as tough as nails to have control in the classroom.
Hummel, who teaches fourth- and fifth-grade science and language arts, mentors her students to advanced reading levels and guides them to excel on exams, all the while keeping the classroom atmosphere fun. At age 30, Hummel’s youthfulness reveals itself in wee, whimsical junctures throughout the day, instances that foster camaraderie in her classroom.
“Why not create a moment with them?” says Hummel, drawing as an example, her trademark victory jumps to celebrate students’ achievements. “I’m having fun with them. They really dig that.”
It’s no surprise that Hummel, a summa cum laude graduate of Walsh University, delivers a level of pep to the classroom fit for an athletic field. After all, she is a former double for Obie, the Massillon Tigers’ mascot. As a high school student, Hummel took on the coveted celebrity role to which she attributes her knack for rallying her current fans, her students, to success.
“If I create a relationship with kids, they can work with me,” she explains.
School Principal Robert Housel says that Hummel’s students’ state reading and math assessment scores rose a whopping 25 percent in one year. Equally notable, academic improvement among Hummel’s students isn’t a one-time occasion. It’s a trend that continues from year to year, one that is particularly impressive considering many of Hummel’s students face learning challenges such as ADHD and autism, according to Housel.
“Tria exemplifies everything a successful teacher is. She’s intelligent, organized and extremely engaging with the kids,” Housel says. “She follows the Yellow Brick Road, she stays on point with kids and has an empathetic element with them, and she communicates with parents all the time.”
With teacher retention reigning as a challenge among most schools, everywhere, it’s a wonder why Housel isn’t fearful of losing this top-notch teacher to another tempting teaching opportunity elsewhere.
“My philosophy is to train people well enough that they can leave and to treat them well enough, so they never want to,” he says.
It seems to be working.
Hummel says she plans to stick around. That’s a good thing, especially for her students like fifth-grader McKayla, whom Hummel has taught for five years now.
McKayla sums up her teacher simply, yet succinctly. “She’s nice and she cares,” she says.