By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Though many would agree that quantifying the value of a great teacher is impossible, the Tupelo community and school district make a special effort to recognize their most valuable teachers with the annual Teacher of Distinction awards.
This year’s winners in the CREATE Foundation-sponsored program were announced Friday at a joint meeting of the Tupelo Kiwanis and Rotary clubs.
Winning teachers were awarded a cash prize, but they said the real reward is the impact they make on their students.
“What gives me strength to keep going every day is my students,” said Tosha Armstrong, a fourth-grade teacher at Lawndale Elementary. “Every year, I try to work harder to give my best to each individual student I teach.”
Fellow award winners echoed her sentiment.
“We are just giving kids a chance, and when you give kids a chance, great things happen,” said Lucas Smith, a Tupelo High School teacher and head swim team coach.
Armstrong and Lucas were two of the 14 Teacher of Distinction award winners from a pool of 59 nominees from across the district. Nominees were chosen based on personal letters of recommendation from students, parents, district personnel or community members. The winners were judged by an outside panel of professional educators.
Winning teachers received $1,000, while assistant teachers were given a $500 prize.
In addition to Armstrong and Lucas, other award winners were Blair Curtis, Amanda Young, Jan Rogers, Jalema Tidwell, Kathryn Marcy, Alicia Goddard, Leigh Ann Henderson, Brandy Burnett, Teresa Ware, Barry Cook, Lashundra McClendon and Demetria Patterson.
“After years of working hard in the Tupelo School District, I hope you look back and have happy, fond memories. I hope you think, ‘What a place to teach,’” said Bob Monroe, who taught for 33 years in the district.
Monroe’s endowment fund, set up in memory of his late wife Marilyn, who was a Tupelo teacher, helped supply prize money to the program, along with other local sponsors, such as the Jimmy Williams Memorial Education Endowment; the CREATE Foundation’s Innovations in Education Endowment; Mitchell, McNutt and Sams; B amp& B Concrete; the Tupelo High School Alumni Association; Rotary Club; Tupelo Public Schools Administrative Council; Renasant Bank; the Booth Family Endowment; BancorpSouth; Pat and Jennifer Caldwell; Reed Family Trust Endowment and Kiwanis Club.
“How many communities can say we have activities like this where we recognize teachers on an ongoing basis?” said Gearl Loden, superintendent of the Tupelo School District.
Chris Kieffer contributed to this story.