Almost everyone who knows Preston Hollow Elementary School teacher Leanne Woods says she has a gift for teaching students with Down syndrome.
Principal Tom Brandt describes her as a teacher of boundless energy who applies tough love to get her special needs students to grow when other teachers might give up.
“Ms. Woods’ ability to connect with and address each student’s unique talents and specific needs is absolutely incredible,” he said.
Woods takes a personal interest in the students and their families. She is known to chaperone students to sporting events or take them to enjoy a swim. All of this helps explain why the Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas recently named Woods its 2015 Educator of the Year.
The guild extends a variety of services to 1,500 area families whose children are diagnosed with the congenital condition. One of every 691 babies is born with Down syndrome, which creates a need for teachers like Woods.
“I don’t feel sympathy but a resounding passion for their hidden potential. These children are smart and capable,” Woods said. “I make my love evident, but I am tough. I have expectations for them and seeing their gifts come to fruition is an amazing honor.”
Woods’ other community efforts include creating a school team for the Down Syndrome Guild’s annual Buddy Walk and organizing events to celebrate World Down Syndrome day.
As one parent said in her letter of support for Woods, “The biggest reason she deserves this award is simply that she truly loves my son. As a parent, anyone who loves and believes in my son the way she does is outstanding in my book.”