SPS Middle School Teacher of the Year inspires students to dream big

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2024

EDITORS NOTE: The Suffolk News-Herald is doing a Q&A with all of the teachers of the year in the Suffolk Public Schools division. Today, we are writing about King’s Fork Middle School Librarian Ariel Ralph. We asked her 20 questions and shortened this interview into some of our favorite responses.

Ralph is in her 15th year in education, with two years with SPS and King’s Fork Middle School.

She’s married to Brennan Ralph and has three children, ages three, four, and six. Two of their children attend SPS schools.

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At one time, Ralph coached girls basketball and cheerleading; however, she says at the moment, she is focused on attending to her children’s activities and learning. Ralph hopes to return to coaching as she enjoys mentoring her athletes and helping them pursue their dreams and goals. 

Ralph also uses her brand, Edify, to uplift and encourage others to believe in themselves, to go after their dreams and goals, and to express faith. She says the brand uplifts women through scriptures and encourages women to use words to edify one another.

Q: What or who inspired you to become an educator?

A: My parents, William and Lizzie Russell, Jr., played a pivotal role in shaping my career path toward teaching. Their passion for faith, education, and belief in the transformative power of knowledge instilled in me a deep appreciation for learning. Growing up in an environment where the value of education was emphasized, I decided to pursue a career in teaching. I was eager to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others through the gift of knowledge.

Q: If you weren’t a teacher, what career field would you be in?

A: If I was in a different career field, you could find me traveling the world as a motivational speaker, inspiring and uplifting others. I recognize the impact words have on others, and I believe in the power of speaking life into those that surround me. My message would encourage my audience to stay committed to the pursuit of their dreams, knowing that they can overcome obstacles with faith, hard work, and consistency.

Q: What’s the most creative/unique project one of your classes has worked on?
A: My students created a walk-through Black History exhibit for the library, showcasing their dedication to honoring and celebrating influential figures, significant moments, and cultural contributions while creating a meaningful space for reflection, dialogue and appreciation of Black culture. 

 Q: What’s the most rewarding part about your job?

A: It is a tie between the two. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is inspiring my students to dream big; knowing that their opportunities are limitless and nothing is impossible if they believe in themselves and work hard. The other most rewarding part of my job is coaching and mentoring teachers. This is such a rewarding journey because it allows me to provide guidance, share my experiences, and provide ongoing learning opportunities to my colleagues.

Q: What did being named your school’s Teacher of the Year mean to you?

A: I was deeply honored to be named King’s Fork Middle School Teacher of the Year. To know that my colleagues selected and regarded me as an individual deserving of this award is a testament to the characteristics that I believe educators should embody: integrity, perseverance, love, commitment, kindness, life-long learning, collaboration, and meeting the needs of all students.

Q: As your students transition to the next grade or graduate, what is one key takeaway you hope they carry forward from their time in your class?

A: Simply put, I let my students know that hard work leads to success and as you are progressing in life, remember to appreciate those who have inspired you,and always give back to your community.