Sixteen teachers were honored at an awards banquet hosted by the Limestone County Board of Education Thursday evening at the Career Technical Center.
After a dinner catered by more than a dozen culinary students, Jan Tribble, secondary curriculum director, introduced each teacher. Superintendent Dr. Tom Sisk and Board Chairman Bret McGill presented a plaque to each honoree.
Members of the Central Office and school board members Anthony Hilliard and Earl Glaze also attended the ceremony.
Sisk said he appreciated the efforts by the teachers to connect with their students and ensure their well-being.
“I want to take advantage of this opportunity to thank you for the difference you make in their lives,” said Sisk in his closing remarks at the banquet. “One of the things I think we do very well in Limestone County is take care of our children.”
Nine K-6 educators — Nancy Page, Michelle Mitchell, McKenzie Thomas, Marcy Hamilton, Jennifer Howard, Tara Tipper, Jennifer King, Lynn Hodges and Vicky Askew — were honored as their respective schools’ Teacher of the Year
Seven high school instructors — Starr Weems DeGraffenried, Angela Biggs, Brenda Pollock, Amy Swinea, Samantha Fleming, Melody Etheredge and Jordan Paul — were recognized as their respective schools’ Secondary Teacher of the Year
‘My sweet friends’
Page, who celebrated her 48th birthday Thursday, was named the county’s Elementary Teacher of the Year, which was announced by the 2011 winner, Elkmont third-grade teacher Cindy Wales.
Page, a graduate of the University of North Alabama and Athens State University, has taught for 25 years and is a fourth-grade teacher at Blue Springs Elementary School.
Her students are reminded to “stand tall and be proud” when they ask a question. Classmates are referred to as “buddies,” and her 20 students can transition from being excited and rambunctious to quiet and attentive with just a few words from Page, who regularly refers to her young pupils as “my sweet friends.”
A row of brightly decorated flashlights made with science kit wires and toilet paper tubes and turned on by a switch made of two thumbtacks and a paper clip rests on one desk, while a pile of blue bean bags for reading time are stacked near Page’s desk.
“She’s the most amazing teacher I’ve ever had, and she teaches you a lot,” said Miranda Turner, 9, one of Page’s fourth-graders. “We get to make ornaments, and we’ve been working on flashlights.”
Dawn Martin, a junior high math teacher at East Limestone, was last year’s Secondary Teacher of the Year. She described students as “uncut diamonds needing only enough pressure to allow their brilliance to shine through,” before presenting this year’s award to Fleming.
Fleming, who was a registered nurse at Athens-Limestone Hospital for 16 years, has taught health science at the Career Center since 2006.
Elkmont 11th-grader Rylea Holt called Fleming “the best teacher ever,” while fellow Elkmont junior Samantha Watkins described her as “sweet, caring and considerate.”
“She’s always positive and even if she’s in an ill mood, she doesn’t show it at all,” said West Limestone 11th-grader Emily Oswald.
A Clements graduate, Fleming earned a nursing degree at the University of North Alabama and obtained her teaching certificate from Athens State University.
“I love having the opportunity to work with others and to teach, and I thought this would be a better way to reach more people,” said Fleming, whose extended family includes several teachers and a former superintendent. “I feel like I’m one of the luckiest people in the world because I’ve had two jobs in my lifetime, and I’ve loved both of them.
“I always tell my students that it’s not worth becoming a nurse if you’re in it for the money or the cute little uniforms — it’s about being compassionate and helping people.”
The finalists for the overall teacher of the year awards were chosen by a committee from their school, while the two representatives for the county were selected by a Central Office panel that included Martin, Wales, a parent and a board member.
Fleming and Page were selected based on criteria from the state Board of Education, including an application, a resume, teaching philosophy and letters of recommendation.
The Limestone County winners will advance to the district level. The finalists from the eight districts in the state will receive $500 from the state board, and two state finalists will be selected from among the district winners in both the elementary and secondary categories.
The Alabama Teacher of the Year and an Alternate Teacher of the Year will be chosen from the final four nominees spanning both categories.