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School Level Teachers of the Year
Posted On:
Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Congratulations to the 2018 school-level Teachers of the Year. One from each of the three categories – Prek-4, 5-8, and 9-12 – will be chosen to represent Hamblen County Schools. A committee of administrators from Middle Tennessee will choose the winners.



Alpha, Jamie Berg

Fairview-Marguerite, Lisa Harrison

Hillcrest, Leslie Brooks

John Hay, Jacob Wilke

Lincoln Heights Elementary, Connie Wilson

Manley, Julie Bolton

Russellville, Kimberly Brooks

Union Heights, Erin Winstead

West Elementary, Ashley Burnside

Whitesburg, Stacey Waddell

Wit, Michelle Newman




East Ridge, Laura Fleenor

Lincoln Heights Middle, Tyson Jones

Meadowview, Victoria Price

West View, Trista Godbey

Miller Boyd, Bill McKinney




East High, Christopher Yeary

West High, Amy Whaley



PreK-Fourth Grade


Alpha Elementary

Jamie Berg


First grade teacher Jamie Berg is Alpha Elementary’s Teacher of the Year. She holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from Carson-Newman University.


A five-year teacher, Berg is a RTI coordinator, a member of the school’s Emergency Response Team, a mentor teacher, and a former member of the Crisis Management team and grade level team leader.


“As an educator, it is my job to ensure that all students are learning,” Berg said. “With that said, no two students are the same, which is why it is extremely important to provide instructional practices that meet the needs of all students and their different learning styles. The instructional practices that I focus on in my classroom are student-led learning, small-group instruction, and cooperative learning groups”


“Student-led learning is an important instructional practice to ensure student learning,” she explained. “When teachers allow student-led learning they are providing students an opportunity to take initiative in their own learning. Mastery of objectives and standards can easily be measured when using this practice. Students can learn from one another as well when student-led learning is implemented.”


Berg also uses manipulatives in her class. “I like to incorporate games during instruction, which ensures student learning through engagement, and it also makes learning fun,” she said.


“Working in small groups is a great way to provided differentiated instruction,” Berg said. “This allows for the teacher to focus on the students’ areas of deficit, and it also allows for the teacher to capitalize on the students’ strengths. Cooperative learning groups are a great way for students to work together and learn from one another. Students love working together, which also helps keep students engaged.


At Alpha, Berg was involved in the co-teaching method. In previous years, Berg has combined her classroom with another teacher. “We then collected data and placed students into groups based on areas of deficit,” she said. “This allowed us to implement teacher-led small groups where we could focus on our students’ deficits through differentiated instruction.”


She adds the teacher to student ratio was also much smaller this way, helped with student engagement, and minimized interruptions. “We would teach a quick 30-minutewhole group lesson, and then break into groups and focus on the objectives and standards,” she said.






Lisa Harrison


First grade teacher Lisa Harrison, who describes her classroom as a community of respect and acceptance, is Fairview-Marguerite’s Teacher of the Year.


A six-year teacher, she earned her B.S. from Tusculum College and is a graduate of Walters State Community College.



Two of her classroom practices are simply knowing her students and motivating them. “For example, I ask myself each of the following questions: What are the strengths/weaknesses of this student? What do I need to know about this student’s life beyond school hours that could affect his/her learning during the school day?


“I believe every child can learn and achieve success within his/her ability,” she explained. “Knowing my students helps me to differentiate my instruction so each student can achieve success on his/her academic level.”


Harrison, who is passionate about parents realizing how vital their role is to their child’s success. “I am proud to be part of a school that values this as well,” she said.  “I involve myself in everything our school does to bring us together with our families.


“I want our families to realize we need them as much as they need us. I want our students to realize, they are just not another body filling a seat in a classroom. But, they are vital as well to the learning that takes place within the walls of our school. I believe that family involvement is a huge factor in the making of a successful school.”



As a leader of the Production Committee, Harrison helps plan programs that highlight our schools’ talent, families, and holidays. One of her favorite productions to help with putting together is our Veterans Day program. “I have had the honor of being part of a well-deserved recognition of our veterans now and remember those who have passed on,” she said.


School culture also is very important to Harrison. A member of the Family Involvement Committee, Harrison is helps plan activities that invites parents to come and learn what is going on in the school and with their children.


“We plan a night for the parents to come for technology night,” Harrison said. “We introduced and shared wonderful resources our parents could use for their children at home to further building math and reading skills.”


“We also build our family community by having family movie night. I love knowing our families view us as part of their team putting forth our best practices every day for the success of their children,” she added.


At Fairview, Harrison is Team Leader, a member of the Leadership Committee, Textbook Adoption Committee, co-chair of the Patient Assistance Fund, the Production Committee, and a Mentor Teacher.



Hillcrest Elementary

Leslie Brooks


Leslie Brooks, physical education teacher since 1985 and a 37-year educator, is Hillcrest’s Teacher of the Year.  She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee.


Her motto is “Win with Wellness” and she explains, “students are taught the components of wellness and hot choose a healthy lifestyle.”


Two areas which she collects data and information are nutrition and fitness. “I teach students nutritional information on My Plate and how to make healthy food choices. I work with the cafeteria staff and use their information to collect data for the Healthy School Tam report and for my students.”


The UT Extension Agency works with Hillcrest’s 3-5 grade students teaching them Health Wellness Habits. “We record food logs and use that information or data to improve the food choices they make in the cafeteria and at home,” she said.


Her students also participate in yearly fitness testing. “This data is used to set individual goals for improving their personal fitness level.  Students are giving information to develop their own personal plans for physical activities.


“Students keep an activity log to support they plan,” Brooks said. “Throughout the year, we retake the fitness test and make any changes in their fitness plan to support their new goals. The information and tools they are given are applicable in elementary physical education class as well as lifetime fitness,”


Healthy School leader for Hillcrest, she has presented professional development for Hamblen County PE teachers. She is coordinator for Jump Rope for Heart at her school, and is a member of the Title I committee, leadership team, and is sponsor of the school’s Ambassador Club.


Brooks stresses lifetime fitness and wellness. Several years ago, she decided to extend the concept to the parents and community as well. “I developed a Family Fitness Night,” she explained. “The music teacher and I created a playlist of songs and during my unit on dance, I taught the students several line dances.”


She added, “From this experience, the Hillcrest Stomp was created. Each year, students, families, and community members participate in a family dance night…this year will be the eighth year of family fun.”


The Cowboy Stomp has become a big part of parent involvement school activities. “Parents have commented on how it helps them feel like they are an important part of the Hillcrest School Family, and they love spending quality time with their children,” she said.


Students love seeing their family members exercising with them and they memories that will last a lifetime. “Students are amazed at their teachers’ and families’ dancing abilities,” Brooks added. “The end result is that families can make fitness a part of their daily lives with something as simple as dancing. Students have commented on how they have continued participating in fitness activities with their families.”




Jacob Wilke

John Hay Elementary


Jacob Wilke, who believes students make gains because they are feel loved, safe, and cared for, is John Hay Elementary’s Teacher of the Year. A nine-year teacher, has undergrad degrees from the University of Tennessee, Word of Life Biblical Institute, and Philadelphia Biblical Institute, and a master’s degree from Lee University.


A nine-year teacher, Wilke says his classroom practices revolve around his kindergarten team and credits his two partners with making him “the teacher I am.”


The team plans together which allows them to focus on how best to meet the needs of high achieving and struggling students.  “We focus on deficits the students have in small groups utilizing our aides to assist with these groups,” he said. “We use different methods for different students in order to focus on what each child needs.”


In reading each child is given his/her own leveled book. “This allows them to use all week and builds fluency,” Wilke said. “Anytime we have free time, they can pull out a book they are confident with. By the end of the week, most children can read the book fluently with intonation and confidence.”


In writing, they begin with small tasks that allow each student to work on basic writing skills and then move to allowing the students to write on their own.
This also builds confidence and allows the students to see growth with a writing portfolio,” he said.


In math, the class focuses on hands-on learning and connect math concepts to real-life experience. “Students get to use different tools and test out various ways to solve problems,” he said, “This allows them to use whatever method they are confident with to solve the problem.”


“More than any of these tactics and methods, I pursue teaching with a passion from a ministry mindset,” Wilke said. “Teaching does not pay as a career. If you are here to make money, prestige, or respect, you are in the wrong profession.


“If however, you are here because you love kids, then this is a great job,” he added. “Being a male in kindergarten is an oddity. This allows me to fill a father figure role for many of these students.  This is why I believe students grow. I treat them like my own children. I care about them and their education.  They make progress because of programs but also because they feel cared for. They strive to make gains because they know it makes me proud.”


Wilke, leader of the school’s Coding and Robotics clubs, said bringing technology to an economically depressed school and has been amazing. “The students love and it and really seam motivated to push through the harder tasks,” he said, “If it can help some students find a passion for technology, it will help them get jobs and change their lives forever.”




Lincoln Heights Elementary

Connie Wilson


Third grade English/Language Arts and Social Studies teacher Connie Wilson is Lincoln Elementary’s Teacher of the Year. Seven of her nine years as a teacher have been spent in her present position.


Wilson’s undergraduate degree, a B.A. in growth and learning is from Tusculum College and her M.S. is from Lincoln Memorial University in Curriculum and Instruction.


Currently serving as third grade team leader at Lincoln, she also a Summer Reading Coordinator. 


Every summer, Wilson helps organize reading opportunities at a local park and at Girls Inc. “Teachers, community leaders, and other volunteers share books with children who attend,” she said. “These events also serve as opportunities to build relationships with parents and students.”


The program, which this year included incorporating STEM activities to correspond with reading, was started in 2015 during the East Tennessee Literacy Conference at Walters State. “We were captivated by the positive correlation between student access to books during the summer and retention or even more extension of reading achievement,” she said.


“With Lincoln Heights economically disadvantaged rates running between 98 and 100 percent, these statistics seemed especially relevant,” she explained.


They shared their vision with principals and shortly after, the Lincoln Heights Elementary Summer Literacy Program was formed.


In her classroom, gap closure with her students is successful due to effective skills-based intervention and differentiation. Her students have gained both in fluency by increasing their correct words per minute and with above average growths from the fall to the winter STAR benchmark testing.


“There are several class practices that I use that I believe are important to my students’ successes,” she said. “One is differentiating in my classes. I differentiate in my whole-group instruction by the way I deliver my lesson. I try not only to include dialogue, but also visuals, movement, drawing, students talking with shoulder partners, and using different texts for students according to their reading levels for independent work.”


She added, “Another practice is to scaffold work for my SPED and ELL students,” said, adding, “I also use the WIDA Can Do Descriptors to help differentiate and scaffold assignments for my ELL students.”


Wilson said PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) are another part of her success. “In our PLC meetings, we use our classroom data to drive our discussion and come up with the best ways to …meet the needs of our students,” she said.


Professional development is very important to Wilson. “I attend as many PD sessions as I am able,” she said. “One PD that our school has is a vertically aligned collaboration every six weeks that has been beneficial. We are able to unpack our standards together and discuss common vocabulary with other grade levels. Another area I feel has had a great impact is my teaching is following the Read to be Ready format.”



Manley Elementary

Julia Bolton


Preschool special education teacher Julia Bolton is Manley Elementary’s Teacher of the Year. Seven years of her 12-year tenure has been in her present position.  She develops and coordinates Individual Education Programs for three- and four-year-olds.


Bolton, who holds a B.S. in Special Education from Carson-Newman University and an M.E.D. in Educational Administration from Lincoln Memorial University, serves as Manley’s Special Education and Crisis Prevention Intervention team leader.


Bolton attributes the success of her classroom to the ongoing collaboration of the PreK Team, as well as the inclusion of students into a PreK program with non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible.


She collaborates with regular education preschool teachers to successfully implement

inclusion in the regular education classroom and complete initial evaluations for students to determine eligibility for Special Education Services.


Strategies she develops meet the social and emotional needs of students with disabilities including but not limited to writing and implementing social stories, designing and implementing the use of individual visual schedules and designing and implementing the use of classroom visual schedules.


She also sees the physical needs of students with disabilities are met, including feeding, toileting needs, and utilizing adaptive equipment.


“To positively impact school culture at Manley and across Hamblen County, I have

spent a considerable amount of time learning, implementing, and training other

teachers with techniques that I have adapted from Vanderbilt’s Kennedy Center

Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD),” Bolton explained.


She has incorporated TRIAD strategies into her classroom instruction.

Widespread success has been documented, not only with students with Autism

Spectrum Disorder, but also students with other disabilities.


“My visual schedules are not ordinary schedules. They consist of visual images created

on a program called Boardmarker Plus. This program has a bank of generalized

images that are used to detail actions, places, and people,” she explained.


“When I need to modify a student’s actions, I use behavior cards to highlight the desired behavior and/or identify unwanted behaviors. I use first/then boards to emphasize completing a non- preferred task in order to obtain a preferred task. Adaptive schedules, choice boards, and oops cards are a few more of the items created,” she said. “This has resulted in a dramatic increase in positive behavior from all students in the classroom.”


“Finally, I successfully incorporate “I see...” books that use images to retell a book from our curriculum that we have read as a group. I have experienced many students begin

to read independently from a book using these images and techniques, Bolton said.





Russellville Elementary

Kimberly Brooks


Kindergarten teacher Kimberly Brooks is Russellville Elementary’s Teacher of the Year.


A 16-year educator who has spent the last 12 years in her current position, taught first grade at Russellville before joining the kindergarten team there and prior to that taught at All Saints Episcopal School


She holds a B.S. and an M.A. from East Tennessee State University and has an endorsement in Prek-3 education.


Brooks maintains a classroom that consistently reinforces reading skills in sequential order. “I implement many strategies and techniques regularly,” she said. “I use predictable books and charts to reinforce sight words and CVC (consonant–vowel-consonant) words. This practice scaffolds learning for struggling readers. I also use a word wall and the ticket out the door to emphasize these sight words.”


She works diligently to provide individualized instruction through small groups and skills folders that drive the small group instruction.


An example of her teaching comes from a relationship with the Russellville Pizza Plus which turned into a school fundraiser. “Pizza Plus comes and demonstrates the sequencing of a pizza for all kindergarten students,” she said. ‘We follow up the demonstration with a math craftivity in addition during math.”


The Pizza Plus fundraiser provides annual technology purchases for Russellville. She works on other fundraisers, including one with Pink Pig Pottery.


Brooks serves or has served her school as a team leader and mentor teacher, as well as chair for the Dr. Seuss and American Education Week committees, Data Team, and working on the following: Color Fun Run Committee, RTI Committee, and Yearbook staff.


Brooks was awarded a flag flown during war time as a recognition of support of parents during their time in Afghanistan. She has collected items for two students’ fathers who were serving in Afghanistan 


Outside of the classroom, Brooks assists with Vacation Bible School, was co-director of her church’s Women’s Ministry Conference, Vacation Bible School teacher, director of school supply giveaway, and was chair of the fellowship committee.


A supporter of Food on Foot, she has prepared food bags for that agency, along with similar volunteer activities at the Baptist Student Union at Walters State. She has volunteered at the Morristown and Hawkins County pregnancy centers, and has supported the Morristown Jail Ministry.




Union Heights Elementary

Erin Winstead


Building relationships and a love for learning are the most important practices used by Erin Winstead, Union Heights Teacher of the Year. 


She quotes a favorite professor: “We should see each student as a blank canvas. They come to us with different experiences and background information, but as teachers we have the ability to make a masterpiece out of each one of them. They won’t all look the same, but in the end, they will each be beautiful in their own way.”


Winstead, who has taught second grade for seven years, is a 17-year educator. She has a B.A. from East Tennessee State University, an M.A. from Bethel University, and is a graduate of Walters State Community College.


Currently, Winstead serves on the state’s item and review committees for TCAP English/language arts, along with the range-finding committee for writing. 


A Read to be Ready coach and facilitator, she also is a member of the School Improvement Committee, the Leadership Committee, and is grade-level chair.


Winstead believes a teacher’s daily practices can be ladders for students to help them climb to their highest potentials and provide them with the confidence they need to be successful. “However,” she said, “daily practices also can be toxic and lead to stagnation and poor self-confidence. It is every important for a teacher to self-reflect and differentiate between which practices build student growth and those practices that are counterproductive.”


Over her tenure, Winstead has learned the most efficient classroom practice is simply relationship building. “As adults we want to work hard for those who appreciate our strengths and encourage us to better ourselves,” she said. “Children are the exact same way. If we want our students to work hard and put for forth their best efforts, we must first build trust and respect.


“It also is in the process of relationship building that we learn a student’s strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “Assessments tell us a great deal about a child, but one-on-one conversations tell us so much more. It is one thing to see a child as data on paper and work from that. It is quite another to genuinely know children and what they are capable of accomplishing.”


The Read to be Ready state initiative is changing the culture of Union Heights, Winstead explained. It challenges teachers to approach reading instruction in a new and insightful way. 

“While all teachers in grades K-5 are receiving training, teachers in grades K-3 are striving to fully implement the strategies out lined in Read to be Ready. The early grade focus will lead us to reach the Department of Education’s goal of having 75 percent of students reading on grade level by 2025.





West Elementary

Ashley Burnside


English Language Learner teacher for K-5 Ashley Burnside is West Elementary’s Teacher of the Year.


A six-year teacher, she earned her English as a Secondary Language certification from East Tennessee State University, along with her M.A. in Elementary Education, and her B.A. in Chemistry. She is a graduate of Walters State Community College.


Students in Burnside ELL classroom are ability grouped and strategically placed based on the students’ needs in areas of English Language Proficiency, TNReady data, and STAR data.


“Our students need explicit instructions in social and academic language in order to achieve high levels of growth and learning,” she said. 


She believes numerous classroom practices and programs result in the growth and learning for all our students, however, collaboration among educators plays the biggest factor in growth and learning for all students. “


Without the collaboration of our students’ classroom teachers currently and previously, growth and learning would not exist,” she said.  “I honestly feel I have the best team when it comes to collaboration. We work extremely well together which benefits the students tremendously in effort, attendance, growth, learning, and application.


“We push into weekly PLCs with our grade level teachers to discuss students’ progress toward learning targets, modifying instruction to better serve students in their areas of strength and their deficits, and for any concerns that the teachers might have so we are able to communicate them to the students and parents. When collaboration is prepared efficiently, it is effective!”



Burnside and her team has improved our overall school culture with parental involvement. “I believe if we have high parental involvement, students will want to come to school and perform better because of the parent/teacher relationship,” she said.


Since 2013, Burnside’s team visits our upcoming kindergarteners. “We bring each student a book, a pencil, practice name writing sheets, stickers, answer any questions the parents have and offer helpful information needed upon entering their first days of school.”


To many parents the teachers are the first faces they see associated with school and we are the familiar faces that appear year after year working with each of their children.  “Enrolling a child into school for the first time can be scary when the parent cannot speak the same language as most of the staff so finding a friendly face can be very important on registration day and the first days of school,” she said. 


“Parents know they can trust me, and even with the language barrier, they know I will find a way to help them,” Burnside explained, as she sometimes the most consistent person in their child’s education and my relationship with the families is far beyond more than just academics.


“These parents see my co-teachers and me on our monthly Parent Days, our annual Parent Night, our annual International Night, bi-yearly Parent-Teacher conferences, and many other outside gatherings,” she said.


During monthly Parent Days, parents are invited into the classroom and they are given strategies to help their children at home on the skills they are learning at school.


“Each Parent Day, different strategies are given for each grade level,” Burnside said. “These strategies are not language dependent so that parents of various language backgrounds can extend education into the home, such as using manipulatives to help solve equations, creating words and sentences using Play-Doh, Shaving Cream, White-boards with Expo markers, cereal with glue, construction paper with crayons, learning on free iPad and smartphone applications, and having parents read to students and students read to parents in Spanish and English.”



Parent Night is at the end of August each year. “We meet with all the parents and discuss our WIDA ACCESS scores (what they mean including each domain score), detailed information about our classroom, discuss several things required by students and parents for their homerooms, and upcoming events and procedures. This gives parents a good chance to understand how our school functions and opens the door for future communication throughout the year,” she said.


“Parental involvement impacts student learning tremendously. As well as attendance, hard work, and dedication from our students, it is one of the biggest indicators of student success,” Burnside explained.




Whitesburg Elementary

Stacey Waddell



Stacey Waddell, K-5 Library and Computer Technology teacher, is Whitesburg’s Teacher of the Year. A five-year teacher, she has been in her current position for four years.


Waddell has a B.S. from East Tennessee State University and an M.S. from the University of Tennessee. Before joining Hamblen County Schools in 2013, she was an accountant and IT analyst at MAHLE.


At Whitesburg, she serves as a member of the School Improvement and Title I committees, and Crisis Management team.


In her classroom, Waddell allows children to enjoy and maximize the benefits and opportunities that the school library provides. “I teach information literacy skills to all students – from basic knowledge of a library’s purpose in kindergarten to developing information evaluation skills in fifth grade,” she said. “Students are encouraged to be independent searchers of enjoyable books and to help others while maintaining a respectful culture within the library.”


Waddell says her classes also have fun! “I believe a strong imagination promotes creativity, new ideas and spurs the search for new knowledge. When students emotionally and intellectually connect to quality books, they form a bond and with the ownership of the library so that they are more comfortable, confident patrons,” she said. “This has been evident over the past three years as library book circulations per student has increased by 23 percent with an additional 4 percent projected increase for the 2017-2018 school year.”


Accelerated Reader (AR), offered at Whitesburg, provides a culture of success through reading.
 “We feel strongly in the application of this program,” Waddell said. In the 2013-2015, Whitesburg’s NCE in Reading was the highest or tied as the highest among Hamblen County elementary schools.


“Our approach to using AR is to reward first through fifth graders with a variety of prizes, if their grade level goals are met” Waddell said. “To ensure comprehension, students also must have an overall quiz accuracy of 80 percent or more to receive awards.”


Waddell strives to maintain a balance between promoting the AR program and supporting a genuine love of reading and a lifetime of learning in all students.


Michelle Newman

Witt Elementary


Fourth grade math and science teacher Michelle Newman is Witt Elementary teacher of the year. A 25-year educator, she has served in her present position for the past nine years, before which she taught at Lincoln Elementary.


Newman is this year’s Tennessee Science Teachers Association Teacher of the Year for grades K-4 and was selected to serve on the state’s Science Textbook Committee.  “I take great pride in the fact that the materials this committee reviewed will guide more than 65,000 Tennessee educators as they undertake the implementation of our new science standards,” she said. “This will affect almost 100,000 students across our state.”


A graduate of East Tennessee State University with a B.S. in Elementary Education, Newman holds a M.S. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Tennessee and an E.Ds. from Lincoln Memorial in Educational Administration and Instruction. She also studied abroad at the University of London.


Newman, who serves Witt as a principal designee, a member of the data team, a new teacher mentor, and is grade level team leader, is a member of the Hamblen County science textbook adoption committee and a science content leader.


In the classroom, Newman, seeing herself as a student in the ever-changing world of science, concentrates on using a hands-on approach as much as possible, utilizing the Web to bring science concepts into the classroom. “Something we learn in class can spark a question from a student that is not covered by standards,” she said.


A lifelong learner, she said, “I have to be knowledgeable in the latest science trends so I can lead my student to see themselves as lifelong learners as well.”


Newman does a tremendous amount of research to find materials that are reflective of the Tennessee math standards. “I rarely use the math textbook because it does not take students deep enough to meet our high expectations,” she said. “My students have benefited from this rigor, which includes an emphasis on math skills in real-world situations.”


She also utilizes writing in her math classes. “If they can explain a concept, then they truly understand it.”


Newman serves on the Tennessee Science Instructional Materials Panel, is a Tennessee Academic Bias Item Reviewer for reading, math and science, and is a member of the TN Ready Science Teacher Item Review Committee.


At Lincoln Heights, she was a member of the School Advisory Leadership Team, the Data Team, and was fifth grade team leader.



East Ridge

Laura Fleenor


Laura Fleenor, eighth grade math and algebra teacher whose philosophy is that all students can learn, is East Ridge’s Teacher of the Year.


Currently a doctoral candidate at Lincoln Memorial University, she has an A.S. from Walters State, a B.A. from Carson-Newman University, a M.A. from Tusculum College and an Ed.S. from Lincoln Memorial University. A 13-year educator, she has been in her current position for the past four years


Fleenor said students are the center of her classroom. “My job is not to teach content, but to teach students. Through high expectations and teamwork, I believe my students can participate successfully in the global economy in the 21st Century.”


“Communicating and modeling high expectations on the first way of school sets the tone for the year,” Fleenor said. “I talk to students about their own goals and expectations and then I am able to communicate to students what I expect for them as well. I believe all students can learn with high expectations and teamwork.”

All students learn at different rates and achieve at different levels, so differentiating instructions meeting their learning needs, Fleenor explained. “I use a variety of teaching strategies and activities to meet the needs of various learning needs,” she said, noting that she provides tutoring for students each morning to meet individual needs.


Teamwork is essential to success. “In today’s global society, individuals must work together and collaborate to accomplish a goal or task,” she said.  “In the classroom, teamwork is students and teachers working together to achieve a goal. Teamwork also is teachers collaborating on the same project.


“On the eighth grade team, I collaborate with my teaching partner and share ideas with other subject level teachers to develop effective lesson plans. I also collaborate with other grade level math teachers to develop common formative assessments to gauge our students’ learning and use the date to develop strategies to remediate or enrich students’ knowledge of a particular concept,” he said.


At East Ridge, Fleenor is founder and director of the school’s successful Bear Hunt. The 5k, which began in 2007, generates $8,000-$10,000 each year for school needs.


The project is now in its 11th year. “The impact of the race is evident through the increased test scores on TNReady, due to effective test preparation in software purchased with these funds. Students also have exposure to technology they may not have in their homes,” she said.



She serves as Junior Beta Club lead sponsor through which she coordinates and leads service projects for students, prepares and leads the induction ceremony for officers, coordinates fundraisers, and coordinates state and national field trips for Betas.


She is a member of the East Ridge Data Team and actively participates in combing through data from the spring TCAP tests and Algebra EOE. She reviews subgroup data and identifies struggling learners.



Lincoln Heights Middle

Tyson Jones


Eighth grade math teacher Tyson Jones is Lincoln Middle’s Teacher of the Year. He is a six-year teacher, having spent the last three in his current position.


A graduate of Walters State, Jones has a B.S. from Tusculum College and completed educational requirements for license there.


Jones teaches his students “to live their lives with lids off.”  Those lids can be different for each student –broken homes, broken relationships, or broken trust. “Regardless of the tightness of the lid, I have 180 days to bust the lid off, and to show my students that you are in control of your lid and life,” he said.


“My goal is to establish a mindset in each of my students, that regardless of uncontrollable circumstance, you can dream and accomplish anything you desire,” he said.


Focusing on relationships, Jones realizes that students will do anything to succeed if they know you care about them. Each Monday is “Motivational Monday,” a time for students to eagerly anticipate each week. “I can see benefits in the faces and actions of each of my students,” Jones said. “Once a student begins to realize you can and begin to develop self-confidence, they begin to meet the demands of rigorous instruction.”


Jones, who believes that small successes are crucial, consistently breaks the content down into small manageable pieces. “I allow students to experience the feeling of success, and then advance the content,” he said.


Jones raves about the implementation of Houses at LHMS, a program in which each student and staff member belongs to one of our groups. “The houses give each student an identity and a sense of belonging. As team leader, and Ohana house leader, my role has been to be a part of the planning and implementation team that oversees the House program and carries out schoolwide events,” he said.


The house system has changed the school culture, Jones explained. “We believe that every person has a desire to be a winner. The houses provide an avenue for our students to utilize that competiveness in a school environment. Most importantly, the houses provide a sense of belonging, and the engagement of the students and staff make the building a fun place.


“We realize that if students are engaged and invested, they will want to be at school,” he said. “When our students are at school, they can take full advantage of the rigorous and demanding instruction.”


Additionally, college and career readiness for every student has made teaching and learning a very demanding experience for teachers and students alike. “In the midst of providing all students with an unprecedentedly rigorous education, it is equally important that every child knows they are valued and loved. Implementation of the House program has been one avenue for developing social and emotional maturity among our students,” Jones said.







Meadowview Middle

Vicki Price



Eva Victoria “Vicki” Price is Meadowview’s Teacher of the Year. A 36-year educator, she has taught teen living for the past 18 years.


Price, who holds a M.S. in agriculture and extension education from the University of Tennessee, is a graduate of the University of Louisiana Monroe with a double major in Dietetics and Family and Consumer Science.


Through the Teen Living curriculum, Price teaches Social Health and Career Exploration to 6-8 grade students. She also helps facilitates the Teen Outreach Program and Community Service Learning Program in coordination with Douglas Cherokee Economic Authority.


 At Meadowview, Price spearheaded the Learning Landscapes project. “Recognizing that first impressions are important to the school’s image, the only flowers on the property were ‘yucky yucca’ plants on an overgrown hillside that only bloomed in June when no one could see them.”


Price said the rampant vandalism and lack of luster “earned our school name the ghetto-view in the community.”


After several years and the help of many partnerships, the after-school project Learning Landscapes is one of Meadowview’s most popular school activities. “It is no longer an after school tutoring class, but a School Services Club and School Learning Project for interested classes,” Price said, “We have five garden locations: the school entrance sign; two beds at the flag pole; the 100-foot stone flower bed at the gym; a memorial garden; and a courtyard garden.


“I lost count of student, staff, and parents participating, contributions, and volunteer hours years ago,” Price added.


One day while on bus duty, a former student got off the high school transfer bus, came up to Price, and asked, “Ms. Price, when did this school stop being Ghetto-view?” Her heart leaped with joy and she replied, “When the students took control.”


At Meadowview, Price has served as Student Nutrition Advisory Committee and SNAC Team leader since 1998.  Also, she coordinates Parent Volunteer Leadership Development, is a member of the Professional Learning Community, is a USDA Choose My Plate Community Partner, and is Earth Day Coordinator.


A two-time teacher of the year for Meadowview, she is a three-year THOR Award recipient, is an honorary Beta member, and is author of Youth Entrepreneurship, the Legal Responsibilities of Youth Entrepreneurs.  She also is recipient of the Alcoa Howmet Grant for school program development and the LOWE’s Toolbox for Education Grant for student development.



Miller Boyd Alternative

William McKinney


Special education sixth-eighth math and eighth grade social studies teacher William McKinney is Miller Boyd’s Teacher of the Year.  A 32-year educator, McKinney is current in his second year at Miller Boyd.


A former teacher at both East and West high schools, McKinney holds A.A. and B.A. degrees from Alice Lloyd College and an M.A. from Morehead State University.


As a special education teacher at the alternative school, McKinney’s focus has been providing tier I instruction to regular education and special education students in grades 6-8,” he said. “I also lead the RTI2 team at the alternative school and provide interventions to tiers II and III for the same grade levels.


“The students served at the alternative school have showed tremendous gains in both math and reading. The ROI’s for students served at the alternative school have steadily increased during their placement in the current school year,” he said.


McKinney played a lead role in developing the RTI2 program and schedule at Miller Boyd. “Students are continuing to show significant gains with dedicated RTI2 periods and improved Tier I instruction because of this new schedule,” he said. “We continue to tweak this initiative based on individual student needs as we have new students placed at the alternative school.”


Before becoming a member of the Miller Boyd faculty, McKinney served as a mentor teacher and assistant football coach at East and West High schools.



West View Middle

Trista Godbey


Seventh grade English teacher and reading interventionist Trista Godbey is West View’s teacher of the year. Before joining the West View faculty, Godbey was a 10-year third grade teacher at Manley Elementary.


An 11-year teacher, Godbey received her undergraduate degree from Emory & Henry College in interdisciplinary English with a minor in physical education, and her M.A. in reading from East Tennessee State University.


Godbey describes the underpinnings of her classroom practices “fluid,” like water. “They take shape based on distinctive teachable moments. Sometimes they are introduced, practiced, and replaced,” she said. “Others stick around for the long haul and some take the revolving door route.


“They include, but are not limited to, motivational reward systems, teacher modeling, guided instruction, cooperative learning groups, peer tutors, the gradual release of responsibility, and self-discovery,” she said. “Others exist, but those are ever present in my tool belt.”


When Godbey made the move to middle school from elementary school, she heard, “Middle school is different. The kids aren’t that motivated. That’s a tough age.”  Very few of those remarks came in the form of encouragement, she said, adding, “Nonetheless, I was determined to make a change.”


She proposed the re-installment of the Accelerated Reader program for seventh-grade students. “Programs like these allow students to self-select books, read independently, and take comprehension tests to earn grade-bolstering points,” she said, “Undoubtedly, pros and cons exist within every literacy program, but from my vantage, it couldn’t hurt to provide some gentle ‘steering’ with respect to individual reading.”


Since making this move, both she and her teaching partner have witnessed a major increase in the amount of silent readers within every classroom. “One hundred percent of all students have visited the AR website and have taken a test since August,” she said.


She has been told by colleagues that students tote their AR books to class and peel those books open at every opportunity. “Personally, I notice more and more kids reading in the classroom, and even while walking down the hallway,” she said. “In fact, I often times catch myself saying, ‘Johnny, don’t read and walk.’ Secretly, of, course I’m jumping for joy.”


“Is this initiative without flaws?” she asked. “Certainly not. Does it come with guarantees? Most assuredly no. But kids are reading. They’re reading more than before and that’s a start. By my estimation, a book is less important for what it says than what it makes you think.”


At the end of the last school year, Godbey surveyed her students on a broad range of questions including her teaching strategies and classroom activities. After studying the results, she began to piece together what worked and what needed revising. The final piece of data came from specific closing remarks that all students were free to express.


 “I’ll conclude with a quote from whom I deemed as my most challenging and seemingly unmotivated student in his response to ‘Anything else they feel I should know about the school year.’ His written response was, ‘It was great.’”


She said she will forever cherish that response, “for it serves as a gentle reminder that all teaching strategies are an act of philosophy and more times than not, someone is learning.”




East High

Christopher Yeary


Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and Calculus teacher Christopher Yeary, is East High’s Teacher of the Year. A five-year teacher, Yeary earned his B.A. from Carson-Newman University, and His M.A. Ed from Lincoln Memorial University.


“Students and teachers have a bond or relationship that help each other.” Yeary said. “Without the students I have had in the past, I would not be the teacher I am today. Being able to see how students have succeeded and failed in the classroom has shaped my teaching for the better has allowed me to improve daily.”


At East High, he is the mathematics department chair, a member of the Instructional Leadership Team, a Professional Learning Community Leader, Data Team Member, Student Tutoring or Remediation Mentoring Member, the ACT Student Mentoring Program, Senior Night Activity Leader, and Freshman Registration Coordinator.


For the past 5 years Yeary has been a Level 5 math teacher in Hamblen County schools. “Every year I have improved with my teaching ability ranking in the 88th percentile, 96th percentile, and the 99th percentile in Algebra II,” he said.


“While this may sound remarkable, the ability to improve my teaching has a positive correlation with my ability to relate to my students on a daily basis,” he explained. “If someone would come to my classroom, he or she would notice these classroom practices I have incorporated. My classroom practices are having high expectations for every student, every clear and precise routines for my students developed on the first day of class, provide multiple opportunities to respond, and formative assessments.”


Every student has the ability to learn and he or she should learn to their full ability, Yeary stress. “In my classroom, students are expected to be part of the class. This is much different than just being in the classroom,” he said.


“Every student is expected to collaborate with each other, grow, make mistakes, and help each other with the everyday challenges of math. I am able to do this with my routines and procures I establish on the first day of class,” he said.


He said all students want to learn but you must give the students a voice in your classroom. “The more a student buys into the family aspect of the classroom and how he or she is an important member of your classroom family, a student’s potential will be able to blossom,” he said. “A student will not be able to grow without given a chance to mess up. When a student does have a mistake, a teacher has to be able to correct this through formative assessments. “


All students at some time will need help, Yeary notes. “It is up to me to find these mistakes as quickly and accurately as possible. This includes going around desk by desk checking student working, using thumbs up and thumbs down to be able to see how comfortable each student is, and using other students’ mistakes to build the knowledge level of the classroom on what not to do in the same situations,”



Year’s plays an important role on the East High S.T.O.R.M. (Student Tutoring or Remediation Mentoring) team. “This is project initiated by my Principal, Mr. Johnson, to be able to increase student ACT scores in all areas. Every student is in a S.T.O.R.M. classroom for 50 minutes a day 5 days a week. For three of these days, the students focus on improving their A.C.T. scores.


“On the other two days, students are able to remediate on past assignments or tests. This also plays a role on increasing graduation rate, because it allows students another opportunity to improve his or her grade in a class,” he said.


Yeary's role on this team is to develop lesson plans for teachers to use in math and science for the A.C.T. for sophomores and juniors and to provide rewards for students who accomplish these goals. 


It also is his responsibility to be the bridge for the teachers and the curriculum he or she teaches. “Many of the teachers do not teach math or science, so I have to develop the lesson plans to accommodate the teacher’s background but also be able to hit the high A.C.T. standards. This may include going classroom to classroom during the class period helping teachers teach the lesson or helping students with their A.C.T.,” he said.  



West High

Amy Whaley



Amy Whaley, who teaches Advanced Computer Applications, Web Foundations I, and Business Communications, is West High’s Teacher of the Year.  An 18-year teacher, she has spent the last 13 of those years in her current position.


She holds a B.S. in business management, and an M.A.T. in teaching curriculum and instruction from Carson-Newman University.


Advisor of West Side Story, the monthly school newspaper, and webmaster for the school, Whaley also is the school’s graphic designer. This includes the Trojan Army Hall of Fame bulletin, awards ceremony bulletins, and annual graduation booklet. Additionally, she serves as schoolwide Community Relations Chair.


Business department chair, she is PLC (professional learning club) leader for computer applications, works to create common formative curriculum alignment, and, as organization administrator to proctor Microsoft Office Industry Certification tests, has instructed 17 students to receive 46 industry certifications in one semester.


As FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) advisor, Whaley leads students in regional, state, and national competitions, serves as leader of West High’s Thanksgiving box drive through which the school feeds more than 400 Hamblen County residents each year.


Whaley’s West Side Story has earned the rank of Best Overall Newspaper in the state and second place school newspaper. She serves as advisor to the weekly Trojan Talk column in the Citizen Tribune, instructs students to do interviews, assists students in raising $5,000 annually to print newspapers at no cost to the students, and designs advertisements for local businesses.


Before joining the West High staff in 2007, Whaley was business teacher at Morristown East, where she sponsored the Hurricane newspaper. She has served as an adjunct professor of Topics in Business Education at Carson-Newman.


Whaley recently partnered with Alcoa Howmet Morristown to pair Career and Technical Education (CTE) video production students with industry to produce a video for a global competition among 82 facilities from 19 countries.

“I aimed to create a bond between industry and CTE students to improve academic performance in Hamblen County Schools,” she said. “The Alcoa Howmet plant manager, director of schools, principal, another teacher, and I meet over six weeks to lead a work-based learning production team and film a community service video for Howmet.”


Howmet received a $25,000 grant with our first place in the world CTE video and invested $15,000 of the grant in the school system for ACT Analyze Ed practice materials.



Since then, all Hamblen County students have utilized the Analyze Ed practice materials to increase the county ACT cumulative score from a 20.1 in 2012 when ACT was not required at West High to a 20.6 at West and 20.2 for Hamblen County with all junior students testing before receiving a diploma.


“My partnership role with Howmet merged the CTE classroom with academics to provide an impact student sustainability after graduation for Hamblen County students,” she explained. “All Hamblen County high school teachers, including myself, have created rigor in the classroom with ACT practice materials for the past five years.”


“Today, the Howmet partnership project we began has created 23 Hamblen County work-based learning internships,” she said. “…my role has been to prepare students for summer internship interviews through resume and cover letter preparation matched with soft skills. Moreover, our Hamblen County summer internship program produced conversation between the Hamblen County CTE director and CTE coach with industry to create a Work Ethic Diploma noticed across the state.  Due to continued CTE and industry partnerships, 102 Hamblen County students in May of 2017 will receive a red carpet interview to over 30 Lakeway Area industries any time after high school graduation with a Work Ethic Diploma.”


Overall, her initial role with Howmet improved overall school culture to close a gap between industry, CTE, and academics today.  ACT scores have improved, work-based learning summer internships have increased, and the project also advanced conversation to produce the Work Ethic Diploma to merge CTE with academics for sustainability of students in the workforce.