OUR OPINION: Teachers of Distinction make a commitment visible

Twenty Tupelo Public School District teachers and three assistant teachers on Monday received tangible proof of the community’s support for their outstanding classroom work with presentation of checks and certificates at the 15th annual Teachers of Distinction awards luncheon.

The luncheon at Summit Center was sponsored by CREATE Foundation and the Association for Excellence in Education at a joint meeting of the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs of Tupelo.

The audience was large and enthusiastic, including heavy attendance by business leaders, a key constituency within public school supporters.

Three assistant teachers received checks for $500 each, and 20 teachers were presented $1,000 checks from the resources of CREATE and the Association for Excellence in Education, a 31-year-old nonprofit whose sole purpose is private-sector investment in the Tupelo Public Schools.

Candidates are nominated by students or by colleagues. The nominations are evaluated by an independent panel of professionals from outside the Tupelo Public Schools.

Since 1999, 161 teachers and 33 assistant teachers have been cited with the cash stipends and awards.

Earlier in 2013, AEE announced that it would shift its cash award stipends to Teachers of Distinction, increasing the number of awards. AEE this year committed $10,000 to the program, and immediate past president Brent Waldrop said he hopes the total from AEE can be increased to $20,000. AEE has raised more than $2.8 million through gifts and membership dues. He said AEE would like to increase its annual campaign commitment from about $85,000 annually to $100,000 – $150,000.

Superintendent of Schools Gearl Loden enunciated clearly the reason Tupelo has the Teachers of Distinction Awards: “I am astonished by the legacy of commitment to the Tupelo schools.”

The legacy requires nurture and cultivation of new commitments to the community’s expectations for its schools.