2022 Teachers of the Year: Elementary School Winner Heather Slisher

Slisher teaches third grade at Taylor Road Elementary School in Reynoldsburg City School District.

Stephen Borgna
Heather Slisher, the 2022 Teachers of the Year elementary school winner, photographed at Taylor Road Elementary School

Third-grade teacher Heather Slisher has always been known to go the extra mile for her students at Taylor Road Elementary School.

In mid-April, for instance—amid the annual crush of state and district math and reading assessments—Slisher invited Ohio State University women’s hockey player Emma Maltais to speak to her students. Maltais, who won a gold medal in Beijing as a member of the Canadian Olympic team, wished students luck on their tests and talked about perseverance, working hard in school and her experiences in the Olympics, Slisher says.

Going the extra mile and arranging such visits is among the things Slisher has done over the years to make Taylor Road “a great place,” says Principal Jamie Johnson.

In recognition of her work in the classroom, Slisher was named the elementary school winner in the 2022 Columbus Parent/ThisWeek Community News Teachers of the Year awards. “I’m very surprised,” she says. “I’m very honored.”

Melissa Contreras was one of two parents who nominated Slisher. Her son, Easton, was in Slisher’s class last school year. “She was just absolutely amazing,” Contreras says. “She took the extra time with my son to not only understand his needs from an educational perspective, but also from a social perspective. … She took that extra time to make sure he was on track and just really helped him to grow as a person, both inside and outside of school.” 

Beyond teaching the basic third-grade subjects, Slisher says she stresses the importance of building good character. One of the focal points is to teach students to be “a problem solver, not a problem creator.”

“We really focus on trying to look at ways to be a good problem solver and be a good human,” she says. “‘What can we do to make things better?’

“I focus a lot in my classroom on believing in themselves, that nothing is impossible. We don’t say the word ‘can’t’ in my room, [but instead emphasize] we just haven’t learned it yet.”

More:Meet Our Other Teachers of the Year Winners

Slisher, 49, has taught third grade at Taylor Road for the past eight years. She previously taught at Knox Community Elementary School in Knox, Indiana, for 10 years and at Troy Crossroads Elementary in Troy, Illinois, for three years.

She knew she wanted to be an educator from an early age. “It was something I always knew I wanted to do. I grew up in and around schools. My grandfather was a principal of an elementary school, and my godmother and aunt all taught in an elementary building. So it was something from the time I was little that I always wanted to do,” Slisher says.

The native of Orchard Park, New York, graduated from Ball State University in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She lives in Reynoldsburg with her husband, Shaun, and their two sons, Aaron and Aiden, who just finished 11th and seventh grades, respectively.

She says her time at Taylor Road has been special. “Probably the proudest thing I have to say about being able to teach in Reynoldsburg is I get to teach at my neighborhood school,” Slisher says. “I live in the neighborhood that my students come to school in. So I get to be among them all the time, and I take great pride in being able to say I live and work in the community.”

Rohan Adhikari, a student in Slisher’s class, says his teacher is “awesome.” 

“She’s really cool and fun to play with,” he says. “She’s an amazing teacher.”

Adhikari says he enjoys the treats Slisher brings to class and the toys she provides for students to play with during recess. He also appreciates the movies at the end of the class’s larger instructional units.

Student Allison Heizer says she really likes the vocabulary activities Slisher creates and group projects, such as one the class was working on in April about sharks.

“I want students to have the best possible experience when they’re at school,” Slisher says. “I remember my teachers and the things I did as a young student, and I want to give my students that same experience. I want to give them that love for learning, that desire to want to know more, do more and be more.”

Stephen Borgna is a reporter with ThisWeek Community News.