Nine educators were recognized by the Tullahoma City Schools Board of Education Monday night for their dedication to their professions and molding the minds of Tullahoma students.
The district honored each of the Teachers of the Year during the April 15 school board meeting with certificates and checks from the Tullahoma Educational Foundation for Excellence (TEFE).
Each year, one teacher from each elementary and middle school, as well as three teachers from Tullahoma High School, are nominated by their peers for the distinction of Teacher of the Year.
Director of Schools John Carver praised the designation, saying that having a Teacher of the Year program facilitated by peer nominations is “something you just don’t see in all school districts.”
“I know of no higher honor than to be nominated and recognized by your peers,” he said.
This year’s winners included a husband and wife “power couple,” as well as several special education teachers and two members of the THS Career and Technical Education (CTE) team.
Elementary school winners
Fourth-grade teacher Karen King received the nod for Bel-Aire Elementary School. Carver highlighted King’s use of social media to share her classroom activities, knowledge and expertise with other educators and parents alike.
“Mrs. King has a social media footprint on Twitter,” Carver said. “If you ever want to see what’s going on in her classroom, just go to Twitter, and she’ll tell you. The thing of it is, she’s sharing her expertise and skills with teachers throughout the district.”
In fact, Carver said, one of the newest hires of the district was actually someone who did their student teaching in King’s classroom.
“You’re paying it forward,” Carver said to King.
From East Lincoln Elementary School, first-grade teacher Miranda Tucker received the distinction for the 2019-2020 school year. Carver joked that anyone who teaches first grade is a special kind of person.
“First of all, if you’re teaching first grade, there’s a special place for you in heaven,” Carver said.
He then thanked Tucker for her dedication to her profession and her love of her students.
“Second of all, your enthusiasm about helping … continue this transformation [of the school district] is outstanding,” he added.
One of two special education teachers receiving the honor this year was Jack T. Farrar Elementary School’s Tammye Forgey. Carver lauded her patience in her line of work, as well as telling her she truly made a difference in the lives of her students.
“Someone once told me that special ed teachers have the patience of Job,” Carver said. “Having been in Farrar and having seen how you interact with people, I believe that to be true, so thank you very much for your contributions. You do make a difference.”
Robert E. Lee Elementary School’s Ashley Gass was the second special education teacher to be named a Teacher of the Year this year. Carver again lauded the patience of special education teachers, adding that Gass’ smile made a world of difference in her classroom.
“If you were a young person,” Carver said, “to come into class and see that smile, you couldn’t help but be fired up.”
Middle school winners
From East Middle School, English teacher Julie Koster received the nod from the district. Carver praised Koster’s dedication to utilizing social media in her classroom and out.
“I thought I had a big Twitter following,” he said with a laugh. “It has been amazing watching you get connected, globally, to educators.”
Carver also said Koster continues to impress him, and watching what she does for children is “greatly appreciated.”
West Middle School’s Christopher King, a math teacher for the Bobcats and the husband of Bel-Aire’s Karen King, was tapped as the WMS Teacher of the Year. Carver highlighted how King is respected by both his peers and his students in equal measure, saying his dedication to his career is evident.
“Having gotten to know you and the contributions you’ve made to children,” Carver said, “they truly respect you. From this award today, you are also respected by your peers.”
High school winners
As is tradition, Tullahoma High School had three winners, due to the size of the building. This year’s winners included two of the CTE team, as well as an English teacher.
Randy Edwards, who teaches drafting and computer assisted design (CAD), was the first up for comments from Carver.
Carver lauded Edwards’s enthusiasm for what his students are doing in the classroom, highlighting how eager Edwards has been to host Carver in his classroom.
During the school’s spring break, Carver said, Edwards had to stop by the administration office and drop off some paperwork. While he was there, Edwards then requested Carver come by his classroom and see what his students are able to accomplish.
“I think I counted nine times that you said, ‘John, come visit my classroom; come see what we’re doing,’” Carver said.
“What I notice and care about is you can talk about the students that have come through your program that are involved in business and industry here in Tullahoma,” he added. “The investment you’ve made … much of that investment is staying right here.”
Also from the CTE team is machining teacher Keith Gilliam. Carver particularly lauded Gilliam’s instruction for his students, saying Gilliam is preparing his students for the workforce in a way Carver appreciates. Carver also shared he had visited Gilliam’s classroom and saw that Gilliam is “fun to watch” in his classroom.
“The lives that you have taught, you have prepared young people to – in some instances – leave Tullahoma High School and, with one or two years of additional training, get into great careers with bright futures and [make] a decent wage,” Carver said to Gilliam. “We want to make sure that we’re providing more young people with those opportunities.”
Rounding out the high school winners is English teacher Charlie Hickerson. Carver said one of the most important skills people can have is the skill of communication, either through spoken word or writing, and Hickerson is helping students hone that skill.
“One of the greatest gifts that we can give our children is the ability to communicate, both orally and in writing,” Carver said, “and the other thing, too, is also to gain an appreciation of literature, and boy, you hit on all three of those.”
Each school winner received a check from TEFE and a certificate, but three of them received an extra check.
Jim Henry, the president of TEFE, said one educator from each level of education – elementary, middle and high school – is selected by the foundation to serve as the district-level winners.
Each of these winners receives a second check from the foundation in the form of $1,000 for being an excellent steward of education at their school level.
This year’s district-level winners were Karen King for elementary school, Christopher King for middle school and Randy Edwards for high school.
The district-level winners will go on to compete in the regional contest held by the state department of education’s Centers of Regional Excellence (CORE) office. The competition then continues on to a full statewide competition.
Erin McCullough may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.