TPSD educators honored for classroom endeavors

TUPELO – Tupelo High School art teacher Karen Barclay received a message of support from her students Monday morning that left her in tears.
By lunch, that message had proven prophetic.
Barclay was one of 10 teachers in the Tupelo Public School District recognized as a Teacher of Distinction by the CREATE Foundation.
Three assistant teachers from the district were also honored at Monday’s ceremony at a joint meeting of the Tupelo Rotary and Kiwanis clubs at the Summit Convention Center.
Before Barclay received her award, her students had told her she would win because she deserved it as much as anyone.
Yet Barclay, who had also been nominated for the award during the 2006-07 school year, said she came to the banquet expecting only “a lovely lunch.”
When she did win, it left her in tears again.
“This means a lot because you are nominated by someone who said you made a difference,” said Barclay, who has taught for 30 years, including eight at THS. “This is the best honor you can get because it comes from the heart.”
Every year CREATE recognizes at least 10 teachers and up to three assistant teachers as Teachers of Distinction. Nominations are made by students, parents, teachers, administrators, other school district employees or community citizens. An external committee chose the winners.
This year, 46 teachers and six assistant teachers were nominated.
In addition to Barclay, winning teachers were Anita Williams McGraw, Anita Buchanan, Jamie Baker, Courtney Wilemon, Donna Jones, Jeni Chandler, Brenda Gilbert, Ruth Baker and Julie Mattox.
Winning assistants were Melissa Coleman, Valerie Olson and Lanette Westbrook.
“We are celebrating excellence and what better way than by honoring our teachers,” TPSD Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell said. “All of our teachers have special gifts.”
The 10 winning teachers received $1,000 checks, while the winning assistant teachers won $500. The financial awards came from the CREATE-administered Innovations in Education Endowment Fund, Marilyn and Bob Monroe Endowment Fund, Reed Family Trust Endowment Fund, Booth Family Endowment Fund, Jimmy Williams Memorial Endowment and the Mitchell, McNutt and Sams Endowment Fund.
Barclay said she wasn’t sure how she would use the money but might buy a digital camera for her classroom.
Wilemon, a Lawndale Elementary third-grade teacher, said she didn’t know yet how she would use her prize money. What makes the award so meaningful to her, said the fifth-year teacher, is that Tupelo holds its teachers to such high standards.
Gilbert, who teaches music at Carver Elementary, won the award this year after being previously nominated three times in her 15 years of teaching.
“I just learn a lot from my other teachers and just love the kids,” said Gilbert, who taught at Thomas Street Elementary last year when she was nominated.
Among the winners was a family combination: Ruth Baker, of Tupelo Middle School, and her daughter-in-law, Jamie Baker, who teaches at Rankin this year and was at Joyner last year.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or at

2009 Nominees
– (winners in bold)

Assistant Teachers
• Church Street – Janet Bristow
• Milam – Melissa Coleman
• Thomas Street – Helen Hancock
• Rankin – Monica Namie
• Lawhon – Valerie Olson
• Fillmore Center – Lanette Westbrook

• Carver – Dana Maharrey; Amy Tate
• Church Street – Carolyn Beasley; Tabitha Easter; Sally Gillentine; Traci Hazel; Anita Williams McGraw; Amy McCain Wyatt
• Early Childhood Education Center – Anita Buchanan; Cynthia Davis; Amanda Young
• Fillmore Center – Amanda Holloway
• Joyner – Jamie Baker; Jan Carpenter; Harriet Ellett; Kim Jenkins; Karen Wells
• Lawhon – Kathy Bondurant; Connie Buse; Kay Griffin; Courtney Rutherford;
Miley Wise
• Lawndale – Courtney Wilemon
• Milam – Gina Fremont; Kathryn Marcy
• Parkway – Leslie Hilliard; Donna Jones; Marsha Warren
• Pierce Street – Jeni Chandler; Leigh Ann Henderson
• Rankin – Karen Alvarez; Ashley Charrier; Shannon Little Edwards; Laura Russell
• Thomas Street – Shannon Carlisle; Brenda Gilbert; Carolyn Martin; Vicki McAnally; Michelle Sykes
• Tupelo High School – Karen Barclay; Judy Beard; Sherry Davis; Julie Mattox
• Tupelo Middle School – Ruth Baker; Emilie English; Leah Patterson

* Denotes winner
School listed is where the teacher taught for the 2008-09 school year.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

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