Morgan County Schools celebrates district winners
Morgan County Schools recognized the district elementary and secondary teachers of the year and support staff member of the year Jan. 25.
Winners were surprised by a visit from Central Office, a limo ride and lunch. The winners also will receive $500 each and will continue to win $500 for each round they progress through in the state.
Superintendent Bill Hopkins said Morgan County Schools has been recognizing district winners in this way for five years. “One thing is, we wanted to involve the students. We wanted to make it memorable for them,” Hopkinds said. “When we do it this way, we are involving not only the educators but the whole schools, and it’s fun.”
Pat Patterson oversees much of the application process for the district winners, and she said they try to mimic that to the state as much as possible. Each school has a teacher of the year who then applies for the chance of being the district teacher of the year.
Hopkins said his favorite part of the entire day is seeing the students’ reactions when their teacher is announced the teacher of the year. “The kids want to be taught by the best, and you can see the pride on their faces,” Hopkins said.
Brandy Quattlebaum, a fourth-grade teacher at Priceville Elementary School, was announced the elementary teacher of the year. Quattlebaum is in her 13th year of teaching at Priceville and said she has always known she wanted to work in education. “I was just the oldest, so there were those leadership skills. I also had a few amazing teachers that made me want to be just like them,” Quattlebaum said.
Quattlebaum worked hard to earn her place as an educator, working two jobs while in college to help make ends meet. She said she was the first in her family to graduate, and she kept her eyes on her goal. “Anything worth having is hard,” Quattlebaum said.
Quattlebaum said one of the rewards of having worked so hard is being able to make a difference in students’ lives. “Some kids don’t have that one person to encourage them, and I want to make a difference for them,” Quattlebaum said.
She said she was surprised when Hopkins announced she had been selected as the district teacher of the year. “I was really surprised and overwhelmed. Teachers are not doing it for praise; they are in it for the kids,” Quattlebaum said.
After a rollercoaster of a year, Melanie Holiday was selected as the secondary teacher of the year. In April, Holiday had her first child, and just a few months after that, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even with the diagnosis, she missed few days from the classroom. “I love my job; I love what I do so much,” Holiday said. “I am the type of person that – I don’t do well if I do not try to go about my routine. I also wanted to be an encouragement to other people. So many people are touched by cancer.”
Holiday is a Morgan County Schools graduate herself, having graduated from Brewer High School in 2006. She later went on to Calhoun Community College and transferred to Auburn University before she was hired to teach at West Morgan High. “I was hired in 2011 and have been there ever since,” Holiday said.
“I have always known that I wanted to be a teacher,” Holiday added. “In school I considered a couple of other things, but it always came back to being a teacher.”
While undergoing chemotherapy, Holiday said her classroom helped her maintain a sense of normalcy in her life. “I was very open with my students; I did not want it to be the elephant in the room that we didn’t address,” she said. “They were very sweet and supportive. My students and my coworkers took care of me.”
Holiday said being named district teacher of the year surprised her. “It was a really nice surprise. It was not on my radar. Being teacher of the year for the school was enough,” Holiday said. “I was honored.”
Elizabeth Denard is an on-campus translator at West Morgan Elementary School and was named the district staff member of the year. Denard has worked at West Morgan Elementary School for four years.
“I started out at Central Office with a contract as a translator. My kids go to West Morgan, so I know a lot of people there, and there was a need for a translator,” Denard said.
Denard works in the West Morgan Elementary School office and helps Hispanic parents who call or come to the school. More than 200 students at the school are Hispanic or Latino, and Denard said she enjoys being able to bridge the gap for some of the parents who otherwise would not be able to communicate.
“When there are parents that cannot communicate with us, and I am able to help, there is just so much relief,” Denard said.
Denard said her translation skills help these parents be able to be more involved with their children’s education. Denard took Spanish classes throughout her time in school and said it helped her to find her passion in life.
“I studied abroad in Argentina. I think I was considering being a Spanish teacher, but I think I really enjoy working with the kids and their families more,” Denard said.
Denard was announced as the district staff member of the year in front of a school assembly Friday and was able to wave to all of the students as she rode to lunch in the limo. “I was surprised, shocked and felt humbled. It also made me feel very loved by my school,” she said. “I feel like there are so many people more deserving, but I do enjoy my job and what I do.”
Each of the district winners was selected based on experience, philosophy on education, resume, professional biography, response questions and letters of recommendation.
“These three individuals all have great stories, but they were selected by their credentials,” Hopkins said.