The Shelby County Board of Education officially recognized two teachers as First-Year Teachers of the Year for the 2019-2020 school year. Tiffany Hayes a kindergarten teacher from Calera Elementary was honored as the Elementary First-Year Teacher of the Year, while Brad Acre a sixth-grade social studies teacher from Chelsea Middle was celebrated as the Secondary Teacher of the Year.
Each teacher had first been recognized by their peers at the local school level prior to being submitted as nominees for the overall district awards. Normally, the winners would have been honored at a board meeting in the spring at the end of the school year. However, due to COVID-19, board meetings were only being held virtually during that timeframe so the pair was honored at the September 24 meeting.
In her nomination letter, Haynes wrote that every day of her first year of teaching brought new challenges and new opportunities for her to learn and grow to better not only herself as a teacher, but more importantly to better her students.
“My classroom became a second home for my group of twenty-one students and their classmates became their family,” she wrote. “By integrating social emotional learning, my class came together and created a supportive atmosphere where they are able to express their thoughts and emotions. I helped my students understand themselves and each other and how important each one of them are.”
Hayes said she learned more than she ever could have imagined during this past year.
“During my times of reflection, I came up with three key pieces of advice: be flexible, be confident, and be present,” she continued. “Be flexible because every day has new challenges and situations that cannot be predicted. Be confident in the classroom culture you created with your students. Be present for your students, allowing them to connect with you and feel the love you have for them.”
In his nominee essay, Mr. Acre shared he never would have thought teaching would be a much fun as it turned out to be.
“I knew I would enjoy the academic side of education, but I never stopped to consider the joy of building relationships with so many students,” Acre shared. “It took me by surprise how often I found myself laughing with my students and connecting with them on a personal level. It was amazing to see the sheer amount of talent that each of my students possessed whether it be in art, music, academics, reading, sports, or so many other things.
Acre said he was not was not expecting the joyful experiences he had, nor was he expecting the flood of emotions that came after learning students and teachers would not get to go back to school to have one last class.
“I was not expecting the positive and encouraging words I received from students during our e-learning experience,” he noted. I was not expecting emails from students about historical shows they were fascinated with because of my class. I didn’t expect any of this but I am immeasurably grateful to have experienced it.”
“I have heard people talk about how teachers shape children. I went into my first year thinking about how I would shape them. Much to my surprise, I was shaped by the students,” Acre noted.