Teacher Assistants

In Oak Ridge Schools, we value the teacher assistants who assist student growth through supervision of on-going activities related to curriculum, organization of lessons, and preparation of materials for instruction. They reinforce skills in small groups and moderate discussions. They plan and supervise field trips, oversee public activities, and make learning spaces more attractive by attending to the physical climate of our classrooms. The brief biographies highlight the special talents each of these staff members. Teacher photos are in order from left to right and top to bottom to correspond to the order of descriptions below.

TAs of the Year

Oak Ridge Schools Preschool: Principal, Lisa Downard; Teacher Assistant of the Year, Ki’Anna Gibson

Ki’Anna works at Oak Ridge Schools Preschool as a Pre-K teacher assistant. She provides a safe and fun learning environment to support her families, students, and co-workers. Ki’Anna emphasized she enjoys helping every child reach his or her highest potential for learning, and leads them in activities that stimulate and develop their intellectual, physical, and emotional growth to ensure security and well-being.

Glenwood Elementary: Principal, Amelia Bell; Teacher Assistant of the Year, Lisa Pennell

Lisa has been working one-on-one with a student with autism in a regular education classroom for the past two years. She reports that her success has been two-fold. Lisa’s student has grown socially, academically and now mimics positive peer behavior. The students in the classroom have gained compassion, patience, tolerance, and have become supportive peers. Lisa says she has learned through his language and body movements how he learns best. This is a result of the full trust developed with peers and teachers in the inclusion classroom. The motto of the school is, “Glenwood is a learning place where everyone can be their best.” Special education students are welcomed into classrooms, have peers eager to play and assist them, and teachers who understand the potential of our students. The evidence of this can be seen in the following; the child is invited to birthday parties, he gives high fives to his peers in the hall, and he transitions throughout the building without support. Lisa reflects, “Out of the twenty-nine years of being a special education assistant, the last two years have been my most rewarding.”

Linden Elementary: Principal, Roger Ward; Assistant of the Year, Hollie Allison

Hollie is a K-4 teacher assistant at Linden Elementary who runs seven reading groups throughout her work day. Students come to her with various reading levels and economic backgrounds. Hollie has been trained in the Fountas and Pinnell (F&P) guided reading structures and running records, and works closely with teachers to deliver high-quality quality lessons plans. Each week, she meets with teachers to discuss students’ growth and the standards that need additional focus. Mrs. Allison enjoys deepening students’ understanding and getting them excited about reading by enhancing the material with hands-on learning. For instance, when they read a non-fiction book about Thanksgiving or colonial days, she brings whipping cream so students could re-enact the churning of butter. Three times a year, Hollie participates in benchmark testing to assess the student growth. Her students consistently exhibit growth on the F&P and Star assessments. Hollie stated that teaching has been a rewarding experience that allows her to work with a variety of children and adults, both teaching and learning from them, and growing together. In addition to her classroom and lunch room duties, Mrs. Allison participates in a variety of school-related activities including Family Art Night, serving on the school leadership, hospitality, and caring adult teams, and serving as a cheer coach at Jefferson Middle School.

Willow Brook Elementary: Principal, Sherrie Fairchild-Keyes; Teacher Assistant of the Year, Terry Gonzalez

Terry Gonzalez is a K-1 teaching assistant at Willow Brook Elementary, who helps students improve their literacy skills. It is important to Mrs. Gonzalez that she understands how the teachers are instructing the students in reading so she can be most effective in helping with reading and intervention groups. Several years ago, Terry received a scholarship to attend a writer’s workshop in Asheville, North Carolina. She has also attended workshops on Response to Intervention, Fountas and Pinnell, and running records. She enjoys creating activities that support struggling readers. In addition to her teaching duties, in the mornings, Terry helps translate for parents when they need to communicate with the school or access resources in our community. In the afternoons, she provides tutoring and support for our English learners. For the past few years, Mrs. Gonzalez has run the Stomp Out Tobacco SK and the Girls on the Run SK with several girls from Willow Brook and Robertsville.

Woodland Elementary: Principal, D.T. Hobby; Teacher Assistant of the Year, Tammi Beckett

Tammi Beckett is a K-4 math interventionist at Woodland Elementary. In this role, she plans and executes lessons for each grade level, conducts Assessing Math Concepts and AimsWeb testing, attends monthly Response to Intervention meetings, and meets with teachers discuss the progress of students. Prior to serving in this role, Tammi served as a 1st and 2nd grade teaching assistant at Woodland for over thirteen years. In addition to her work in the elementary school, Mrs. Beckett served several years in leadership roles at Oak Ridge High School for her own children’s cheerleading and track booster clubs.

Jefferson Middle School: Principal, Phil Cox; Teacher Assistant of the Year, Joan Smith-

Joan Haygood started her career at Jefferson in 1989 and retired in January, 2019. She has provided Jefferson Middle School students with a caring, helpful, and kind attitude every day. Joan has always exhibited an authentic desire to connect with students, working patiently to build relationships and support their academic, social, and emotional needs. In her career at Jefferson, Mrs. Haygood has positively impacted countless students, families and staff members. Joan often worked with students one-on-one to help them persevere, understand content, and reach goals. In retirement, Mrs. Haygood is going to be enjoying time with her husband, children and grandchildren.

Robertsville Middle School: Principal, Kirk Renegar; Teacher Assistant of the Year, Searcy New

Searcy New has been a teaching assistant at Robertsville Middle School since 1975. She is currently a paraprofessional in the 5th-7th grade special education classrooms. In her role, she assists students with their individual educational plans for inclusion classes, prepares handouts, reads aloud to students who need this support, plans parent meetings and covers classes so teachers can attend them. In addition to her classroom duties, Searcy is a part of the school safety committee, which has improved the safety of all staff and students. As a member of the committee, Mrs. New works with fellow staff and administration to organize fire drills, tornado drills, and medical emergencies. She reflects that the improvement of fire drill patterns and accountability for students has affected the ability to evacuate the building more efficiently and effectively. Tornado drills can now have students into safe zones quickly. In the case of medical emergencies, we are now capable of managing the student body without panic.

Secret City Academy: Principal, Christopher Scott; Teacher Assistant of the Year, Jeanna Reynolds

Jeanna Reynolds is a 5th – 8th grade Response to Intervention specialist for the Secret City Academy. In this role, she is responsible for designing and implementing mixed methods for math and reading intervention. The program includes math games and activities, use of effective computer software, interactive lessons, and interest-driven reading activities to increase students’ comprehension. Jeanna is responsible for the school’s online data wall, which includes progress monitoring, pacing of online instruction, and weekly parent progress reports. Additionally, she plans engaging lessons for small-group learning, builds relationships, encourages students to reach goals, solve problems, and positively interact with others.

Oak Ridge High School: Principal, Martin McDonald; Teacher Assistant of the Year, Carol Carr

Carol Carr has been a teaching assistant in Oak Ridge Schools since 1997, specifically in various areas of special education. Most recently, she has been part of a tremendous community work study program in which her students take the skills they have learned in the classroom through workplace and social skills in concert with their core content courses, and apply them in the community four days per week. The skills include but are not limited to stocking and returning merchandise, counting, sorting, and organizing inventory, cleaning, meeting and greeting the public, and working collaboratively in teams. After graduating, many students will have gainful employment as a direct result of this program. In addition to her regular classroom duties, Carol enjoys being involved in the Special Olympics. For her students, it is an opportunity for them to participate in athletic events at their own levels, and to the best of their abilities. Mrs. Carr says that it is phenomenal to watch them grow right before her eyes. The gain self-confidence, feel acceptance, get a boost to their self-esteem, and overcome several mental and physical challenges. It is also an opportunity for all students, as they receive many awards and feel pride in helping their peers also overcome challenges. There has been participation in this event from the entire student body, thanks to student council and the Wildcat Pride Club. The Special Olympics Oath states, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt!”