Benjamin Fowler and Julie Golden of Oak Ridge High School and Scot Smith of Robertsville Middle School have been named as Outstanding Educators for 2017 by Humanities Tennessee. Three of this year’s six recipients of the award are from Oak Ridge Schools. According to Humanities Tennessee, the Outstanding Educator Awards recognize teachers who have demonstrated excellence in teaching the humanities and who encourage the humanities to be an important part of their students’ lives. Each of the recipients, selected from a pool of nominees from across the state, receive a $2,000 fellowship to further their professional development in the humanities; their schools receive $1,500 for humanities programs and materials.

The awards committee had the following to say about the ORS three teachers and how they will use their awards:

Julie Golden, Spanish, Oak Ridge High School
Julie has been teaching thirteen years and utilizes an anthropological approach to language learning. “…it is important that students in my class have not only a knowledge of the language structure, syntax, and vocabulary, but also a cultural appreciation and connection to native Spanish-speakers…it is my professional obligation to create these opportunities…” Her methods are innovative, employing Skype interviews with survivors of the Salvadoran civil war and developing student-driven projects partnering with the micro-financing service Kiva.org. She will use her professional development award to solidify educational connections with a sister school in Peru.

Benjamin Fowler, English-Theatrical Literature/Performance, Oak Ridge High School
Benjamin has been teaching ten years, and his philosophy of teaching mirrors the mission of Humanities Tennessee: “My goal is not the focus on immediate response in learning, but [for my students] to examine the complex issues affecting them.” Benjamin brings this philosophy to bear in all of his lessons, whether compositional or performance driven. One of his students explored the themes of William Faulkner through modern dance. His professional development award will allow him to attend the world renowned Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada.

Scot Smith, Library Media Specialist, Robertsville Middle School
Scot has been teaching for twenty five years, and the committee, simply put, wanted to clone him. Co-chair of Tennessee’s Volunteer State Book Award, nationwide expert on YA literature, puppeteer, and a hero to fellow teachers and students alike, Scot has made his mark in education. His colleagues, administrators, students and their parents, all describe Scot’s uncanny ability to select the right book for the right child at the right time. He will use his professional development award to travel to two book festivals and to help cover expenses for the American Library Association’s mid-winter conference in Denver.