By Chris Kieffer
JACKSON – New Albany High School English teacher Mary Margarett King nearly selected a career outside of education.
Days before graduating from the University of North Alabama with a degree in communications, she had a change of heart. Rather than seeking a job in public communications, she would pursue her “first love,” get a master’s in English and become a teacher.
“I have had some really great teachers that really inspired me to encourage students and believe in them the way some of the great teachers I had believed in me,” King said. “I’ve always been a nerd, and I love school. I get to continue to be at school.”
King’s decision produced more fruit on Wednesday when she was selected as Mississippi’s Teacher of the Year by the state Department of Education and the Mississippi Teacher Center. She was honored during a reception at the Marriott Downtown in Jackson.
“She is an outstanding teacher, first-class all the way,” said New Albany School District Superintendent Jackie Ford. “There are not enough adjectives to describe her.”
King is the first New Albany teacher to be selected for the state award. She has spent her entire nine-year teaching career at her alma mater, where she teaches juniors and seniors.
“Mary Margarett is the type of teacher who always puts her students and other teachers before her,” said New Albany High School Principal Lance Evans. “When I think of ‘teacher,’ I see her. She is the epitome of an outstanding teacher.”
King was among four finalists for the award, as she represented the 1st Congressional District. She will receive a $5,000 stipend and will be asked to share expertise through various presentations and activities for the improvement of education.
King also will represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition and will travel to Washington, D.C., to meet the president and first lady and participate in a Rose Garden recognition ceremony.
“Every day I strive to be the best I can be, and I try to be involved and active with my students,” she said. “I feel like as a teacher, time is really the most important thing we can give students, and I try to make an effort to be active and participate and give time to my students so they know I care.”
King, who received National Board Certification in 2008, teaches accelerated and Advanced Placement English 3 and also teaches a dual-enrollment English composition course for seniors. She sponsors student council and co-sponsors Students Against Destructive Decisions and is an adjunct instructor at Northeast Community College. She said she wants to be a role model to her students to always strive to learn and better themselves.
“To me it is really just a great honor because I feel like I am sharing this with all of the teachers in Mississippi and with my school district,” she said. “I’m very excited for my school district.”
Gulfport High School Principal Michael Lindsey also was recognized on Wednesday as the Mississippi Administrator of the Year.