Personality: Tranelle A. Pollard
Spotlight on Richmond Public Schools Teacher of the Year
1/25/2024, 6 p.m.
Tranelle A. Pollard knew the value of a good education. And as a young student at Overby-Sheppard Elementary School, her learning experience was greatly improved through the contributions of faculty such as her kindergarten and first grade teacher, Betty Blue.
It was this experience that inspired Ms. Pollard to become a teacher, starting in 2004 at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School with sixth grade science. In 2012, she transitioned into a school counseling job for seventh- and eighth-graders at Dogwood Middle School.
“As a middle school science teacher, I worked very closely with my students and their families on concerns that extended beyond the science content,” Ms. Pollard says, explaining why she moved into counseling. “I assisted with goal setting, academic success and even identifying community resources for parents. I fell in love with that work.”
Last Wednesday, Ms. Pollard was recognized for the excellence she has brought to Richmond Public Schools (RPS) when she was named the 2024 RPS Teacher of the Year.
“I was completely shocked,” Ms. Pollard said. “I burst into tears of joy!”
Ms. Pollard describes her counseling style as solution-focused, shifting to accommodate students’ needs, their strengths and helping them set attainable goals with practical solutions.
She said her counseling style is influenced by the philosophy she brings to her work, and features a similar approach to the philosophy she developed as a teacher.
“Every student can learn, grow and achieve. All students are entitled to the services of a professional school counselor,”
Ms. Pollard said. “Effective school counseling is a collaborative process that involves school counselors, students, parents, teachers, administrators, community leaders and other stakeholders alike.”
This counseling has been complicated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Ms. Pollard. The return to in-person instruction has seen, in her words, a “profound increase” in the number of students experiencing anxiety, depression and other mental afflictions that impact their ability to learn, socialize and succeed in school.
While these conditions have presented an additional challenge for Ms. Pollard, she said she remains committed to her students’ well-being.
Ms. Pollard said she personally has seen the benefits counseling has provided, helping new students develop social skills and confidence, and encouraging them to continue their education with a love of learning — just as she experienced years ago.
Following the RPS Teacher of the Year award, Ms. Pollard now represents RPS in the Central Virginia Teacher of the Year contest presented by the Virginia Department of Education. She could see statewide or even national recognition in further contests down the line if she is chosen.
Ms. Pollard said she is eager to make the division proud and spread her impact further. She said she encourages those feeling the same inspiration she felt from her early learning experience to join in and do their part as counselors for Richmond’s young students.
“Just do it!” Ms. Pollard said. “School counseling is heart work. We need counselors who are caring, passionate and dedicated to the academic, behavioral and social development of our students.”
Meet the 2024 RPS Teacher of the Year and this week’s Personality, Tranelle A. Pollard:
Latest accomplishment: 2024 RPS Teacher of the Year.
Date and place of birth: Jan. 12 in Richmond.
Where you live now: City of Richmond.
Education: Bachelor’s in biology, Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville. Master’s in education in school counseling, Virginia State University.
Family: Father, John; mother, Veronica; sisters, Shameka and Jonisha; nephew, Joell.
Occupation: Professional school counselor, Dogwood Middle School.
Reaction to RPS top teacher award: I was completely shocked. I burst into tears of joy!
Why did you become a teacher: I have always wanted to be a teacher because of the outstanding educators at Overby-Sheppard Elementary School. My kindergarten and first grade teacher, Betty Blue, had a major impact on my life and taught me to love learning.
Why did you become a school counselor: As a middle school science teacher, I worked very closely with my students and their families on concerns that extended beyond the science content. … I fell in love with that work.
What is your teaching philosophy: Every student can learn. Every student deserves access to a safe learning environment. Every student deserves equal opportunities.
• Every student can learn, grow and achieve.
• All students are entitled to the services of a professional school counselor.
• Effective school counseling is a collaborative process that involves school. counselors, students, parents, teachers, administrators, community leaders and other stakeholders alike.
Where did you first teach: Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.
Grades you teach/counsel: Seventh and eighth grades.
Your teaching/counseling style: My counseling style varies based on students’ needs; however, I like to use Solution Focused Counseling because it focuses on students’ strengths and allows students to set attainable goals. Solution Focused Counseling also emphasizes finding practical solutions to problems, rather than dwelling on past difficulties.
Advice to aspiring teachers/school counselors: We need counselors who are caring, passionate and dedicated to the academic, behavioral and social development of our students.
Role of parents/guardians in the learning process: Family engagement in schools helps students have better attendance and behavior, get better grades, and demonstrate better social skills.
How does this challenge impact schoolwork: These challenges impact a young person’s ability to learn, socialize with peers, interact with teachers and other authority figures, and thrive at school.
One way you have seen your counseling make a difference in a student’s life: Watching a student who had anxiety with coming to school, develop the social skills and confidence to move on to high school and develop a love for learning.
A good teacher is: Firm, fair and consistent.
What makes a good school counselor: Someone who can use compassion, empathy, and respect to develop genuine relationships with students. A good school counselor is humble enough to know they don’t have all the answers but are willing to see and understand things from a different perspective.
A good student is: All students are good! I believe that when we look to find the good in each student, that is when we can truly reach them. Finding the good, even when it is difficult, allows for deeper connections and impact.
Mental health care and Richmond Public Schools: RPS has done a phenomenal job at highlighting the importance of student and staff social and emotional well-being, especially after the pandemic. There has been an increase in support groups and resources for our community.
How you start the day: I begin each day with a prayer. I also repeat positive affirmations to set the tone for the day.
The three words that best describe you: Authentic, dependable and nurturing.
If you had 10 extra minutes in the day: I would take that time to journal to reflect on my day, set future goals, and also write down things that I am grateful for.
Best late-night snack: Popcorn.
The music I listen to most: R&B.
Something you love to do that most people would never imagine: I enjoy nature walks in solitude.
At the top of your to-do list: Self-care is at the top of my to-do list. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
The best thing your parents taught you: If you can be anything in this world, remember to be kind.
The person who influenced me the most: My late grandmother, Mary C. Pollard.
Book that influenced you the most: “Make Your Bed” by William McRaven. This book emphasizes the significance of discipline, resilience and small daily tasks like making your bed as a foundation for success. It is an inspirational read for personal development.
What you’re reading now: “All About Love” by bell hooks. This novel focuses on the transformative power of love and the importance of advocating for a more compassionate, interconnected society.
Next goal: To make my district proud by becoming the Regional Teacher of the Year, so that my impact goes beyond this district.