Central Middle School’s Mindy Summers honored as Folger Outstanding Teacher

Photo provided Central Middle School Principal Jay Payne is shown with Mindy Summers, winner of the Edna V. Folger Outstanding Teacher Award.

When she was young, Central Middle School teacher Mindy Summers would have her friends over and “play teacher,” even having them complete worksheets. The playtime proved to be effective practice, as Summers has continually been recognized as one of the community’s outstanding teachers.

Summers is this year’s recipient of the Edna V. Folger Outstanding Teacher Award, an honor given to teachers who have sizable impact on their students and who serve as role models. She was also BCSC’s first Teacher of the Year Award winner in 2020.

Summers teaches seventh and eighth grade language arts at Central, where she has taught since 2000. In her class she impresses upon her students the power of words, she said.

“The way we use our words is going to help us navigate the world around us,” Summers said. And so more than just writing stories is how do I draw pictures with my words? How do I evoke emotion with my words? (How do we look) at words as not just the way we communicate, but a way to present ourselves?”

Although she did spend some time teaching an imaginary class as a kid, Summers didn’t see herself teaching until she reached college.

“When I started taking classes at IUPUC, which is now IU Columbus, it just rekindled my love of learning. And it was there that I joined the literary magazine and just fell in love with my literature courses and linguistic courses and decided to become a teacher.”

Teaching a subject like language arts sometimes allows for more of a connection with her students.

“I feel like writing is very personal. Because in good writing, you hear a student’s voice. And no two voices are alike, no two thought processes are alike. And so I do learn a whole lot about the students as I learn their styles of writing,” she said.

Summers said a trait that all effective teachers have is a life-long passion for learning.

“You have to be willing to have a growth mindset to learn and grow with the times— to embrace technology, embrace new ideas, be willing to go back and draw from older ideas as well. So they can be flexible and be an expert learner (themselves), just like you’re asking the students to be.”

She is involved in several extracurricular activities as well with Central Middle School’s Yearbook Club, Speech Club, Spell Bowl Team and the Academic Super Bowl Interdisciplinary Team.

With students involved in yearbook, Summers will often use their work as a vehicle to show that every student who attends Central helps make it special— not just a select few.

“I’m able to talk to them about inclusion and making sure that our book really represents the entire population of the school. Not just students who stand out for athletics or academics or music (or school activities) — but just that everyone is special and important. And that we can have a good balance, to show just how diverse and wonderful our school is,” she said.

A constant advocate for her students, Summers pushes them to enter their work into national competitions for writing and poetry.

“(It goes) back to that visibility piece, to be seen, to be recognized for your talents, and we’ve had great success.”

Summers first found out she had won the Folger Award during an after school faculty meeting on March 27.

“I was surprised,” Summers said. “I didn’t even know that I was nominated for the honor, so it really took me by surprise.”

Summers said she enjoys coming into work everyday, knowing that the students she is around hold so much potential.

“I’m so excited about these kids that we have, they have so many great ideas. So when we look at the future, and we look at the world around us and that sort of thing, I just feel very hopeful. Just spending my days with people who are so bright and full of ideas and optimism. It just makes me confident in what the future holds for us here in the community.”