Congratulations to Oak Ridge Schools Teachers of the Year

Each year, the Tennessee Department of Education applauds teachers who care about children, who devote their professional lives to enriching the lives of Tennessee students, and who demonstrate exceptional gains in student achievement. The Teacher of the Year program recognizes and honors outstanding teachers in Tennessee. Goals of the program are to:

  • Promote effective teaching practices by recognizing and rewarding outstanding teachers.
  • Engage regional teachers of the year in education policy making through the Teacher Advisory Council.
  • Encourage participation by every school in the state so that all Tennessee teachers may be recognized and rewarded.
  • Build a network of local and state corporate sponsors.
  • Provide a network for teachers to share effective practices.
  • Encourage a sense of professionalism in teaching.
  • Encourage greater participation in building a strong community-school partnership.

Each district in the state may submit one nominee for the state-level award. As part of this process, we seek teacher candidates from each school in the district. Oak Ridge Schools would like to congratulate the school-level winners nominated by their principals and peers for the 2018-2019 application.

Oak Ridge Schools Preschool: Principal, Lisa Downard; Teacher of the Year, Linda Dalton

Linda Dalton is a preschool teacher serving three- and four-year-old children. Her philosophy is that all children can learn. In order for this to happen, students need to feel safe and have clear expectations, so she finds a healthy balance between being firm and loving with them. Linda likens her classroom to the movie Groundhog Day. The students know exactly what to expect and when, giving them a sense of security. She has 17 students her class who remain with her for two school years. During this time, Mrs. Dalton works with each child individually. For example, one student may be able to write his first and last names, while another can only write her first name. Another child may be able to copy or trace her name while yet another is still working on matching his name to identify it among other names. This example of individualization applies throughout the day with many tasks and skills to bring all students success.

Glenwood Elementary: Principal, Pearl Goins; Teacher of the Year, Lauren Blair

Lauren Blair is a first grade teacher who believes that collaboration is the key to success for educators and their students. Lauren attributes her success in the classroom to truly getting to know her students’ learning styles, strengths and areas to strengthen. She recognizes that using this information to create cooperative groups allows her students to explore their own strengths, while benefiting from the strengths of others. Teaching collaborative skills and allowing students the opportunity to work together to create and think critically in the classroom is very important to Mrs. Blair. She believes that this purposeful task gives her students a greater understanding that they are in charge of their own learning. Lauren acknowledges that students have a greater interest and enthusiasm for learning if they know that their opinions and thoughts matter. Mrs. Blair is a STEM coach who provides leadership in the AdvancED STEM certification process and leads school-wide STEM activities including family nights, camps, and a field trip to view the eclipse at Big Turtle Park.

Linden Elementary: Principal, Roger Ward; Teacher of the Year, Lisa Buckner

Lisa Buckner is a third grade teacher whose hope is to instill passion in students and an insatiable appetite for learning. She believes that effective teachers model lifelong learning in their professional and personal lives, always seeking to know more and seek solutions that ignite more questions, creating a cycle of learning. She has discovered the best way to foster learning in her classroom is to make it a place where she rewards risk taking and failure, just as historic heroes experienced failure and yet found success through grit and determination. Lisa attributes her positive student growth results to hands-on learning, inquiry, and active discovery that lead students toward meaningful connections between new content and what they already know. Mrs. Buckner is a STEM Coach who provides vision and leadership for peers to develop lessons, promotes the processes for AdvancED certification, and write grants to design STEM-rich opportunities for students such as viewing the eclipse with NOAA scientists at the Roane State campus in Harriman.

Willow Brook Elementary: Principal, Sherrie Fairchild-Keyes; Teacher of the Year, Donna Grove

Donna Grove is a Reading Specialist who works with students in need of reading intervention to help them move toward grade level success. Her primary goal is to foster growth and success in school, specifically by developing positive feelings about learning and about themselves. She has developed an understanding about the reading process, learning strategies, and sequences appropriate in reading instruction. Donna fosters student growth through a positive, supportive learning environment.  She ensures students know of her high expectations for learning, effort, and behavior. She works with students to develop a pleasant classroom community in which everyone gets on board to work hard, support each other, and strive for success. Success and growth come in a variety of forms and Ms. Grove celebrates each child’s progress.

Woodland Elementary: Principal, D.T. Hobby; Teacher of the Year, Michael Martin

Michael Martin is a third grade teacher whose classroom practices have resulted in growth he attributes a culture that combines acceptance, nurture, and challenge. Mr. Martin believes that students can reach maximum potential emotionally, socially, and academically when they feel safe and comfortable. He places students at the center of instructional decisions, planning from observation and the academic production of each student. As a result, he is able to facilitate a model of individualized instruction in which students take ownership of their learning. Michael served as a leader in the AdvancED STEM certification process, implementing a culture of exploration and discovery to enhance student engagement. The implementation of the 4Cs of communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking skills into course standards improved the culture of the classroom. Michael learned that inviting community members, parents, and content experts to participate in the classroom allowed students a real-world context in which to dream big and associate classroom learning with a wide variety of possible future careers.

Jefferson Middle School: Principal, Phil Cox; Teacher of the Year, Steve Reddick

Steve Reddick is an 8th grade American History teacher. He believes there is no more relevant or exciting subject to teach, as students are “citizens in training,” who will one day vote, pay taxes, serve our country, and be part of our local, national and global communities. Steve notes that democracy requires “lots of practice” and engaged citizens who embrace their civic responsibilities with discernment, reflection, and a seriousness of purpose. He utilizes print and electronic resources to develop his students’ reading, writing, thinking, and discussion skills, as well as the “habits of mind” that they will need to become active, engaged citizens. Students compare differing points of view, weigh evidence, and discuss topics and historical interpretations respectfully. Mr. Reddick makes a point of framing these habits in both historical and contemporary contexts. Steve likens historical facts to an “alphabet and vocabulary of citizenship.” Students must learn to use these factual components to build “sentences and paragraphs” of understanding about what it means to be American citizens in the 21st century. With these tools, they begin to see themselves and our country in a historical context.  They learn that the American ‘experiment’ is an ongoing journey of trial and error, successes and failures, triumphs and struggles.  Steve also encourages his students to understand that creativity, courage, civility, and humor are critical to the debates that sustain our democracy.

Robertsville Middle School: Principal, Tonya Childress; Teacher of the Year, Bob O’Connor

Bob O’Connor teaches 5-8 Special Education. The students Bob serves at Robertsville Middle School have all struggled in school environments that do not account for or address their disabilities. His classroom practices focus on fostering individual needs, providing a therapeutic environment for optimal mental health. He spends time with each student to overcome personal obstacles that have a negative impact on daily interactions. Dr. O’Connor uses techniques such as Conflict Resolution and Collaborative Problem Solving to help students develop these skills. His expectations center on respect and cooperation to develop relationships that will enable personal growth, which he finds rewarding. His ultimate goal is to guide his students toward successful participation in general education classrooms with some level of independence.

Secret City Academy: Principal, Christopher Scott; Teacher of the Year, Donna Gilbert

Donna Gilbert teaches middle school mathematics, social studies, and social skills at the Secret City Academy. She has served in a wide range of roles in public education over twenty years including teaching all core subjects and life skills courses as well as district-level instructional coaching and support roles. Currently, Donna’s success with students shows through her commitment to increasing student achievement through Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI2), teaching summer school, serving as a school-wide case manager for special education, working with students toward credit recovery, and conducting parent/student reading programs that meet 20 minutes per evening and have a 90% participation rate.

Oak Ridge High School: Principal, Martin McDonald; Teacher of the Year, Leslie Shelton

Leslie Shelton teaches 9-12 English. Her philosophy centers on building relationships. She says students are willing to try new things in an atmosphere where they feel challenged, supported, and valued. Leslie points to professional development in problem-based learning (PBL) brought by Discovery Education’s presenter, Mike Gorman. This training provided Leslie fresh ideas and resources to improve her classroom. She is one of the school’s STEM Innovators tasked with integrating STEM, PBL, the 4 Cs (Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical Thinking) in student work for AdvancED STEM certification. On the surface, Leslie notes, the task seems challenging because English does not fall within the traditional STEM acronym. What she finds is that by practicing the 4Cs, students take initiative in their learning and they grow not only academically, but in becoming independent learners capable of transferring skills to current coursework and other areas of their lives for future academic endeavors.