Denise Talley-Hopkins
Faxon Elementary School
Special Education Teacher, Second through Sixth Grades

What factors influenced your decision to become a teacher? Identify what you consider to be your greatest contributions to and accomplishments in education.
I went to college to work in hotel management but had to add one more class to get to 21 hours during my first semester of freshman year. There was an opening in an intro to teaching class, so I took it. My professor was Dr. Kathryn Newman talked about children with special needs, and it just clicked. Although I have a dual degree and certification in general education, I have no desire to teach in the regular education classroom. My heart is for students that learn differently. My most significant contribution is working with students and parents of students who learn differently. I love assuring a parent that their child might be struggling today, but as a team, we can work to make sure our schools are no longer a horrible place of failure but a place that will embrace them where they are and help them be more successful in the future.

Describe a project or initiative that you have led or been involved with that contributed to increasing equity in education and opportunity for students in your school.
I always push for students on my caseloads to be included in activities and projects in my schools. I take great pains with scheduling to ensure my students are not excluded from any extracurricular activities like Operation Breakthrough, ballet classes, etc. because they are receiving special education services. Due to large caseloads and paperwork inherent to working in special education, there is little time for outside initiatives beyond the scope of serving my students.


  1. Mrs. Talley-Hopkins is more than just an teacher, she’s an advocate for all students and their families. She absolutely deserves this honor.