HED:Parent, teacher awards announced
By Monique Harrison
Tupelo’s Teacher of the Year and Parent of the Year were announced during Tuesday’s regularly scheduled Tupelo Public School Board meeting.
Joyner Elementary kindergarten teacher Linda Whitley received the district’s teaching award, while mother of three Linda Rice received the district’s top-parent honor.
Milam Intermediate teacher Marrion Mills was recognized for receiving the district’s Sallie Mae Award, which is designed to honor an outstanding first-year teacher. Mills received the award last spring.
Whitley has been teaching kindergarten in the district for 11 years, including nine years at Pierce Street Elementary and two years at Joyner.
Whitley, who is currently in her 21st year of teaching, was recommended for the award by her peers and principal. Her application was then sent to an independent, out-of-district committee, which made the selection.
The committee takes a number of factors into consideration, with teaching technique being considered one of the most important.
Whitley will now advance to the regional level, competing against nominees from other school districts within the 1st Congressional District. If she wins at the regional level, she will then advance to the state competition and from there to nationals.
“I’m just thrilled to have won at this level,” Whitley said. “To say that I am undeserving is an understatement. This is such an honor.”
She is a teacher consultant for Mississippi State University’s Writing Institute. As a consultant, she works with districts struggling to boost state test scores.
Parent of the Year
In the Parent of the Year competition, each school nominates a parent. An independent committee then evaluates the applications and selects the district’s top parent. The award is based on contributions made through last school year.
Rice has two daughters, ages 8 and 11, and a 13-year-old son. She has been active at Pierce Street Elementary since her son began attending the K-4 school six years ago.
“She has given her time at the school handing out goodies, directing traffic and helping … with new playground equipment,” Board President Polly Bailey said of Rice.
Last year, Linda and her husband Rob served as joint heads of Pierce Street’s Parent Teacher Organization. During their tenure, they worked to complete a new playground at the school. Rob serves as president of the Association of Excellence in Education, a program designed to raise private funds for public schools. Linda is also heavily involved, serving on several committees.
Sallie Mae winner
A panel of Northeast Mississippi educators selected 23-year-old Mills as the district’s top first-year teacher. Applicants are evaluated in a variety of areas including their ability to relate to students and parents, use innovative teaching methods and interact with co-workers.
“She makes you understand things,” 11-year-old Cody Oliver said of his science teacher. “She uses a lot of visual aids and asks a lot of questions. We get to talk about things a lot in … class. I like that.”
She earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in elementary education from Mississippi State University. She did her student teaching at Milam before accepting a full-time job there after graduation. While at MSU, she was named the school’s Student Teacher of the Year.