“It is a privilege for MEEF to honor these outstanding educators,” foundation chairman Steve Davis, president of the Columbus Water Works, said in a news release. “Our 2019 Teacher of the Year honorees have an extraordinary impact in the lives of their students and MSCD. Their passion and commitment to education is remarkable and they are transforming our community every day.”
MCSD superintendent David Lewis said he hadn’t seen anything like the support MEEF gives public education in Muscogee County until he came to Columbus in 2013 from Polk County, Fla..
“To quote the lyrics of Carole Bayer Sager, ‘Nobody does it better, and I feel sad for the rest,’” Lewis said during Wednesday’s news conference in the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts. “They are truly exceptional in what they do.”
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Lewis told the nominees, “You have distinguished yourselves in the field or the grade level in which you teach, and the fact that your peers helped to select you makes the award even more special, one for which you can feel justifiably proud. I cannot be more proud of each one of you for what you do in our classrooms each and every day for our students and, more importantly, for what those students will go on and become, as far as contributing members of our community.”
Such as nominees Storie Atkins, a math teacher at Columbus High School, and Hailey Hinson, a first-grade teacher at River Road Elementary School.
Hinson, who graduated from Columbus High in 2009, was in Atkins’ trigonometry/pre-calculus class as a junior. They delighted in the surprise of seeing each other as nominees at Wednesday’s news conference.
“I was so excited,” said Atkins, in her 20th year as a teacher.
“One of my mentors and teachers was in the same room with me,” said Hinson, in her fifth year as a teacher. “I felt honored but also excited to be with Ms. Atkins as well.”
Hinson liked Atkins as a teacher, she said, because “she was so strong in her math foundation, you knew she knew what she was talking about. There are sometimes teachers that just weren’t really sure, and they were just kind of flying by the seat of their pants, and I never felt that with Ms. Atkins.”
Building constructive relationships with her students is another quality Hinson appreciated about Atkins.
“I look forward to doing that with my students as well,” Hinson said.
Atkins did that by taking the time to talk with the teens in her class as people, not just students, Hinson said.
“They will open up more to you in class and embrace my love of math and be able to enjoy it and know that I support them in other areas than just that,” Atkins said.
Beyond mastering the content, an excellent teacher must develop positive connections with their students, Atkins said.
“I love interacting with the students and getting to know them,” Atkins said.
Atkins recalled discussing with Hinson her interest in being a teacher.
“She was such a model student,” Atkins said. “I definitely encouraged her to go into the teaching profession, because I just feel like if you know it’s your calling and it’s your passion, you’ve just got to go for it.”
Hinson struggled with that idea.
“I knew when I was little that I would probably be a teacher, but I didn’t want to acknowledge that because I felt like I needed to be something bigger, something better,” Hinson said. “But then it was when I was in high school that the Lord really told me that was my calling, that I needed to be a teacher.”
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL NOMINEES
Allen: David Hardegree
Blanchard: Amber Martin
Brewer: Christian Grier
Britt David: Angela Cheal
Clubview: Katherine Black
Davis: Crystal Townsend
Dawson: Shyneeka Stephens
Dimon: Shanna Johnson
Dorothy Height: Namu Keys
Double Churches: Robyn Robinson
Downtown: Karen Cochran
Eagle Ridge: Olivia Salgado
Forrest Road: Tiffani Smith-Burch
Fox: Phillip Crocker
Gentian: Lisa Norsworthy
Georgetown: Patricia Gartman
Hannan: Paula Rothfuss-Murphy
Johnson: Cristina Comer
Key: Krizia Delgado
Lonnie Jackson: Lucretia Ringer
Martin Luther King Jr.: Cassandra Beckford
Mathews: Steven Ring
Midland: Shantae Crawford
North Columbus: Sharon DuFrene
Reese Road: Valerie Jackson
Rigdon Road: Maria Webb
River Road: Hailey Hinson
South Columbus: Tina Floyd
St. Marys Road: Sasha Smith
Waddell: Yvette Thomas
Wesley Heights: Amina Muhammad
Wynnton: Paige Pirkle
MIDDLE SCHOOL NOMINEES
Aaron Cohn: Danielle Cooper
Arnold: Katherine Culverson
Baker: Dacia Irvin
Blackmon Road: Shalon Gillespie
Double Churches: Elise Hancock
East Columbus: Traveika Hunter
Eddy: Marcus McGinty
Fort: La Songi Terrell
Midland: Kathleen Waller
Richards: Dayeann Morrison-Willis
Rothschild: Anthony Bell
Veterans: Dorothy McGrew
HIGH SCHOOL NOMINEES
Carver: Kunicko Byrd
Columbus: Storie Atkins
Early College: Michael Leggett
Hardaway: Lindsay Sloggett
Jordan: Rebekah Atkinson
Kendrick: Carla Jones
Northside: Natalie Teasley
Shaw: Monica Joanne Livingston
Spencer: Timothy Rollier
SPECIALIZED PROGRAM/SCHOOL NOMINEES
AIM: Vicki A. R. Smith
Rainey-McCullers: Elizabeth Lovin
St. Elmo: Kelly Roberts
Woodall: Carlos Brown
The staff of each MCSD school nominated a teacher to compete for the award. The foundation’s selection committee will evaluate their applications and will choose semifinalists to interview and finalists to observe teaching before announcing the winner during the April 25 gala in the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.
Retired educator Tom Hackett, formerly Columbus State University provost and superintendent of Phenix City Schools, is chairman of this year’s selection committee. Other committee members are: Scott Allen, senior principal and partner of the 2WR architecture firm; Spencer Garrard, lecturer in CSU’s College of Education and Health Professions; Geniece Granville, vice president of Davis Broadcasting; Sheryl Green, the 2015 MCSD Teacher of the Year from Jordan Vocational High School, now an MCSD teacher quality specialist; Shane Larkin, the 2017 MCSD Teacher of the Year from Early College Academy; Stefan Lawrence, the 2016 MCSD Teacher of the Year from Carver High School and now assistant principal at Aaron Cohn Middle School; Marquette McKnight, CEO of Media, Marketing and More and executive director of MEEF; and Jimmy Yancey, retired chairman of Synovus Financial Corp.
MEEF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering educational excellence by focusing on teachers who are innovative and exceptionally effective in their profession. In its 23-year history, the foundation has awarded more than $2.3 million to such educators through financial incentives in the Teacher of the Year program, the Harvard Fellows program, the MEEF Grant program and the MEEF Endowment Fund.
IF YOU GO
What: Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation annual gala, where the Muscogee County School District 2018 Teacher of the Year nominees will be honored and the winner will be announced.
When: April 25; reception starts at 6 p.m., dinner at 6:45 p.m.
Where: Columbus Convention & Trade Center, 801 Front Ave.
Tickets: $50; on sale March 22 at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts box office, 900 Broadway.
Info: Media, Marketing and More, 706-660-9702.
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE.