Shelby County’s very best elementary, middle, and high school teachers were honored at the Teacher of the Year reception, held December 2 at Oak Mountain High School. The reception was sponsored by the Greater Shelby County Education Foundation.
Shelby County’s 34 local school “Teacher of the Year” recipients were all recognized. From those 34 candidates, winners were named from the three grade level categories of elementary, middle, and high. The three “Teacher of the Year” winners were Scott Byrne, a third grade teacher from Wilsonville Elementary; Jodie Ferguson, a seventh grade math teacher from Oak Mountain Middle School; and Lee Pastor, a tenth grade history, psychology, and sociology teacher from Montevallo High School.
Also honored were five Shelby County teachers who recently earned National Board certification, and an additional five teachers who successfully renewed their National Board certification, the highest level of certification a teacher can earn.
Local school Teacher of the Year candidates who were honored included: Wendy Avery, Calera Elementary; Cindy Bailey, Valley Elementary; Vickie Birdsong, Forest Oaks Elementary; Kathryn Brekle, Mt Laurel Elementary; Misty Busby Floyd, Helena Elementary; Donna Glenn, Calera Intermediate; Kelly Godwin, Linda Nolen Learning Center; Rebekkah Hess, Helena Intermediate; Kelly Hill, Inverness Elementary; Lori Lancaster, Oak Mountain Elementary; Angela Mitchell, Vincent Elementary; Jennifer Nix, Montevallo Elementary; Rachel Paul, Oak Mountain Intermediate; Tori Rebman, Chelsea Park Elementary; Amy Rooker, Elvin Hill Elementary; Melissa Whitfield, Shelby Elementary, Sherry Wood, Valley Intermediate; Catherine Brown, Helena Middle; Jessica Brown, Riverchase Middle; Ray Haley, Chelsea Middle; Shelia Jett, Montevallo Middle; Maite Miller, Columbiana Middle; Chelsea Rutledge, Calera Middle; Chris Baker, Shelby County High; Ryan Dye, Pelham High; Monica Gordon, Chelsea High; Debbie Jones, Calera High; James Moore, Oak Mountain High; Charlotte Phillips, College and Career Center; and Geoff Wymer, New Direction.
Teachers recognized for achieving National Board certification included: Pam Clay, Helena Elementary; Denise Gonzales, Chelsea Middle; Valeria Hackett, Chelsea Park Elementary; Melanie Henderson, Helena Elementary; and Jan Hughey, Helena Elementary. In addition, teachers recognized for the renewal of their National Board certification included: Cissi Bernhard, University of Montevallo/AMSTI; Melody Byrne, Elvin Hill Elementary; Danette Cooper, Chelsea Park Elementary; Ramona Martin, Mt Laurel Elementary; and Angela Walker, Mt Laurel Elementary.
Byrne, this year’s Elementary winner, discovered his “true professional calling” after graduating college and spending some time working in the banking industry. He has been teaching nine years, all of which have been with the Shelby County School District. He has been teaching at Wilsonville Elementary school for one year. He is a Nationally Board Certified teacher and currently serves as the school’s English Language Arts lead teacher, the United Way Chairman, and on the school’s safety committee and school leadership team. He helped lead the teacher training for the school-wide math program, is a cooperating teacher for student interns, and organized and led the first grade level math night.
“My greatest contribution is the unique opportunity I have each year to be a strong male role model for elementary students who are missing that in their lives,” Byrne said in nomination essay. “One of the reasons I chose to teach elementary school is to provide a strong male role model in a highly influential profession where male role models are lacking.”
“Many people throughout history have been considered heroes,” Byrne continued. “A hero is often described as someone who has sacrificed their life for a cause or for another person. I believe that my honesty, belief in values, and ability to hold myself to a higher standard, can often inspire my students to carry themselves as heroes too.”
Ferguson, who was named the middle school winner, has been teaching five years at Oak Mountain Middle School. In addition to her duties as a math teacher, Ferguson also serves as the head volleyball coach. She also provides before and after school math tutoring, serves as the A+ teacher trainer for the math department and as a mentor for new teachers and fellow math teachers. She serves on the Athletic Booster Club, Intervention/Advisory action team, Positive Behavior Plan action team, and as the Washington D.C. trip assistant coordinator.
Ferguson said she has known since she was in kindergarten that she wanted to be a teacher, and realized that she was on the right track when she was in college and helped successfully tutor fellow student athletes in math. She said is rewarded for her long hours as both a teacher and a coach in knowing that she is truly making a difference in the lives of her students.
“My main goals of being a positive role model and making an impact on the students have come to fruition,” she wrote in her essay. “Upon reflecting on my life-long dreams of becoming a teacher and my efforts to achieve these goals, I am more than satisfied to know that I am truly making a difference.”
Pastor was honored as the high school winner after teaching for only one year. She has immediately gotten involved at the school, serving as the Student Government Sponsor and as the assistant volleyball coach. She serves on the 10th grade Intervention Committee, helped plan the school’s Homecoming week, and is currently helping to plan the school’s Career Conference.
“When I turned 37-years-old, I finally figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up,” Pastor wrote in her essay. “More importantly, I discovered who I really was: a teacher.”
Pastor was looking to re-enter the workforce after staying home when her children were small. After her last child entered kindergarten, she had an epiphany when she discovered how many of her personal interests and hobbies revolved around teaching in some capacity, including church and as a Girl Scout leader.
“So, I chose this career deliberately, because I felt it was what I was created to do with my life,” she wrote. “I poured myself into my graduate course work because I wanted to learn everything I could to become an effective, life-changing teacher like the special ones I still remember to this day. I want to be that teacher to my students. I want them to remember that they were loved and believed in. I want them to be inspired to be responsible citizens with an appreciation of our past and a sound understanding of our country’s past”