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South Bend's honored teachers say poverty a problem in classrooms

Tuesday was a cause for celebration in the South Bend Community School Corporation.  The torch was passed from one Teacher of the Year to the next.  But the ceremony also shed some light on the challenges these teachers face every day.  

This year's Teacher of the Year is Melissa Glenn, she's the title one coach at Perley Fine Arts Academy. 

She's originally from South Bend, even growing up attending South Bend schools. 

She was chosen out of 34 candidates, selected with several qualities in mind, including concern for students, and the ability to inspire a love of learning.  

Glenn says she comes up with  new ways to educate students, who can barely pave their own path.

A study from Stanford University shows one of the main factors in determining a student's success could be family wealth. 

In South Bend, teachers believe money, for most students, is a problem.  

"Poverty is really all around us, and it permeates everything we do as educators," says Carol Draeger Thomas, former Teacher of the Year, and an English teacher at Rise Up Academy.  

Draeger Thomas says 65-percent of the students in South Bend qualify for free meals, which is a startling statistic for these educators, who say they've had to change the way they do things in the classroom. 

But they also say, it's statistics like these that push teachers in South Bend to care for their students even more, making sure the smiles they see every day don't become statistics themselves.  

"We can push them towards excellence and achievement, so they can be productive and successful people in our society," says Draeger Thomas.  

Glenn was awarded $1,000 which she says will go right back into her classroom. 

She will now be able to compete for the state title, something only six teachers in South Bend have ever won.  

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