Every school chose its own individual teacher of the year, and from that group the winners’ peers and supervisors selected the overall teachers of the year for the pre-K and elementary group, middle school group and high school group.
Each individual teacher of the year attended the April 10 banquet, and it wasn’t known who the three overall winners were until their names were announced, just like an Oscar winner at the Academy Awards.
This year’s overall winners included Volunteer High School English teacher Justin Barton; St. Clair Elementary fifth-grade math and social studies teacher Sarah Hughes; and fourth-grade Carters Valley Elementary English teacher Kristie Shelton.
How are they picked?
Among the criteria for being selected teacher of the year are: have a track record of exceptional gains in student learning; have a broad understanding of current trends and issues in education; be facilitators of learning and skilled in implementing creative teaching strategies; show evidence of positive teacher effect over time related to student achievement; be exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled; and have a superior ability to teach and to inspire in students a love of learning.
Each teacher was asked to write an essay on their achievements and teaching philosophies. Below are some excerpts.
Justin Barton, Volunteer High School
Barton said his two biggest passions are empowering students and creating leaders in the community. Among the initiatives he works toward are ACT improvement and STEM integration, although he said his most worthwhile work has been providing students with opportunities to showcase their talents and strengthen their leadership.
“I believe in providing creative opportunities for students to express themselves,” Barton said. “By allowing students to choose these elective assignments ranging from writing plays, short stories and poems, to creating documentaries and writing formal speeches, to creating art and music — students are able to showcase their abilities and make connections to areas of interest. By providing these opportunities for students to express themselves, many students have received local and regional recognition for their efforts.”
Sarah Hughes, St. Clair Elementary
Hughes said two keys to success in the classroom have been making connections with her students and setting high expectations for them.
She said students will rise to the expectations set for them, even when they didn’t believe they could. She also believes that when students feel connected to their teacher they’re more likely to perform their best.
“Every teacher must find the balance between relationship and leadership in their classroom,” Hughes said. “Knowing they have boundaries and expectations from you, along with common interests keep this relationship balanced. ... With that being said, my growth scores have been Level 5 since I have been teaching. This data proves that with high expectations, respectful student-teacher relationships, and the promotion of exceptional work ethic, students will continue to succeed in the classroom at any level.”
Kristie Shelton, Carters Valley Elementary
Among the initiatives launched by Shelton was the CVES Morning Mile program, which provided students who were being dropped off at school as much as 45 minutes before class time an opportunity either to do school work in the computer lab or “move” to the beat of upbeat music.
Previously that 45 minutes was being wasted by students and sometimes resulted in disciplinary problems, but since Morning Mile started, students’ moods, attitudes and behavior are greatly improved.
“Data is kept for each student who participates in the Morning Mile, and it has resulted in some students walking/running more than 100 miles in a school year,” Shelton said. “Morning student behavior issues have decreased exponentially, and high energy students have a release before they get into the classroom. ... Unstructured time is now a thing of the past, and huge improvements in the overall climate of the school are taking place.”
Other pre-K to fourth-grade teachers of the year
Karen Hostetler from Church Hill Elementary; Jennifer Rhoton from Hawkins Elementary School; Megan Combs from Joseph Rogers Primary; Cheryl (Kristi) Ball from McPheeter’s Bend Elementary; Martha Mowell from Mount Carmel Elementary; and Jennifer Cassell from Surgoinsville Elementary.
Grades 5-8 teachers of the year
Jan Moore from Bulls Gap School; Thea Puckett from Church Hill Intermediate; Shanna Smith from Church Hill Middle; Brittany Martin from Keplar Elementary; Rhonda Markham from Mooresburg Elementary; Hollie Singleton from Rogersville Middle; and Angelia Hensley from Surgoinsville Middle.
High School teachers of the year
Rhonda Kendrick from Cherokee and Brittney Rhoton from Clinch School.