By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Verona Elementary Principal Temeka Shannon admits her school’s recent gains didn’t come easily.
But she has learned much on the journey to achieve them.
Shannon was honored as the Lee County School District’s 2014 Administrator of the Year on Thursday night. She will represent the district in the competition for state honors.
Verona raised its ranking last year from an “F” to a “C.” Its Quality of Distribution Index, based on student scores on state tests, rose by 31 points, or 25 percent.
“I’ve learned it takes patience,” Shannon said. “I’ve learned there is no magic formula, and it takes the effort of people around you who share your vision to get the job done. For us, it didn’t happen overnight.”
Shannon, in her 12th year of leading the kindergarten to fourth-grade school, was honored at the district’s School Board meeting.
Most of the school’s students come from low-income families, and Shannon said they face conditions that make school more challenging. Thus, she is inspired to motivate the kids to dream big and gain an education that can help them escape the cycle of poverty.
“It is my mission, and it is my ministry to oversee the students here and guide them through the time they will be here in hope they will be a productive change agent in society,” she said.
At the beginning of each school year, she takes new teachers on a bus ride through the community so they can visualize and internalize the environmental factors faced by many students.
“Some nights I cannot sleep because of a situation a student has gone through,” she said. “It is more than a job.”
Teachers at the school said Shannon brings energy and is very caring about the students. Fourth-grade inclusion teacher Margaret Parker called her “fearless and fun,” and computer lab teacher Brenda Spurgon said she has made the school better than she found it.
“She is very supportive of us,” said kindergarten teacher Nancy Phelps. “She backs us up. We may have differences with Ms. Shannon, but she listens and she is open-minded.”
Shannon began her career as an English teacher at Tupelo High from 2000 to 2002 and was an administrative intern at THS in 2002-03. She has led Verona since 2003, when she was hired as a 24-year-old administrator.