By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published February 5, 2015
ATLANTA—Christy Wallace, a kindergarten teacher at Sophia Academy, is the school’s first teacher to be honored at the Archbishop’s Banquet for Catholic Education.
Wallace said the award, in her mind, recognizes the achievement of the school and its staff in being designated in 2013 as an independent Catholic school.
The teacher recognition could have gone to any of the school’s “awesome staff,” said Wallace, who combines her background in art therapy and theology to engage the students.
Sophia Academy was founded to serve students with learning differences and utilizes small class sizes, multisensory teaching and personal learning plans.
Principal Michelle Zierten said Wallace is a teacher who thinks outside the box. She organized science projects with a school in Eastern Europe, as students in the two countries talked using Skype.
“She is innovative. She makes connections for their learning and makes it fun,” Zierten said.
Visiting her kindergarten class recently, she patiently worked with three restless students, using an oversized fly swatter to focus their eyes on a reading lesson. Later, they practiced reading numbers on the face of a clock.
“If he knows he’s loved, if he knows he’s safe, he want to live up to my expectations,” she said about a student, an observation that reflects her teaching attitude with all her students, from the youngest to those in high school in her two religion classes.
She’s taught for nearly a dozen years, including English to students in Eastern Europe. Wallace before coming to the school cared for senior citizens as a member of the pastoral staff at the Cathedral of Christ the King. She also worked at Pinecrest Academy, Cumming, and at Our Lady of the Assumption School, Atlanta.
In her nomination, the school said Wallace brings to the classroom “loving care and dedication that she puts into all she does in the service of the church and through the lives of her students.”
Sophia Academy gives teachers the ability to educate in small class sizes. In a traditional classroom, Wallace said she wouldn’t have the ability to customize lesson plans. “I love the ability to teach to each student’s needs.”
Student-involved videos are part of her teaching toolbox. They serve in her classroom as an enrichment tool, instilling confidence in students as well as imparting knowledge.
“We may have to practice certain parts over and over, but when they finally have perfected their portion of the video, they later look on the completed presentation with pride and a sense of ‘I did it,’” she said.
Wallace, 45, an Atlanta native, followed her mother, Marietta, into education. Her mom was a teacher at St. Thomas More School in the 1960s. She attended Holy Cross Church growing up and today she’s a member of St. Francis de Sales Church, in Mableton.
Outside of school, Wallace is a leader with the Legion of Mary. She visits women who are inmates at DeKalb County Jail.
“My faith is so everything. It’d be hard not to put it in the public realm,” she said.