By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Lawhon Elementary physical education teacher Terry Leigh Clayton thought an assembly in the school’s gymnasium on Friday afternoon was intended to recognize the school’s efforts in a physical fitness initiative.
Instead, the primary purpose was to honor her.
Clayton was recognized by the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation as a 2012 All Star Teacher of the Year. She was one of six teachers in the nation to receive the award, given in partnership with Project Fit America. She is one of two Mississippi educators so honored, although the other has not yet been announced.
“We applaud the efforts of Terry Leigh Clayton as a physical education teacher at Lawhon Elementary because of her outstanding efforts to focus on increasing fitness levels and health education of students,” said Sheila Grogan, executive director of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation. Grogan was present for Friday’s ceremony.
Clayton was surprised by the announcement. As it was made, her husband and two children emerged from a hiding spot in a closet in the corner of the gym. Students cheered and displayed signs congratulating her.
“I am very honored the district made a big deal out of this,” she said. “I am blown away by that.”
With the award, Lawhon received $1,000 for its P.E. program, and Clayton was given $500. She was nominated for it by a Project Fit trainer. This is the second year she has used the Project Fit program in her P.E. class.
It provides equipment and material and includes a curriculum. In it are various challenges in which students set different fitness goals.
Hung from the walls of the school’s gym were various signs noting student accomplishments in the “Horizontal Ladder Challenge,” “Cup Take Down Champions” and “Sit-up Challenge” among other tasks.
“Project Fit has completely changed my teaching,” Clayton said. “The kids are more intrinsically motivated to perform.”