Hamilton County Schools Names 2014 Teachers Of The Year

3 Educators To Be Honored At Luncheon

Thursday, April 03, 2014
Three Hamilton County teachers reign as royalty this week, as they are honored as the 2014 Hamilton County Teachers of the Year. The teachers and their principals will be recognized at a special luncheon at the Chattanoogan Hotel on Friday, from 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Lisa Steele from Ooltewah Elementary, Kathee Jones from Nolan Elementary and Tiffany Williams from Tyner Academy were named 2014 HCDE Teachers of the Year.  Currently, all three teachers are competing at the regional level.

“It is very special when we honor outstanding teachers for their dedication to our students.  The greatest asset any school system can have is outstanding teachers,” said Stacey Roddy, director of Elementary Math & Science, who coordinates the awards.  “We know from research that teacher effectiveness is directly related to improving student achievement.  These three teachers have dedicated themselves to the success of their students and they deserve this recognition and so much more.”

The following are highlights of the 2014 Hamilton County Schools Teachers of the Year:

Lisa Steele, Ooltewah Elementary School, Grades K-4 Division
•    32 years teaching experience
•    32 years teaching experience in Tennessee public schools
•    Grade level leader
•    Career Level 3 teacher
•    Supervised many student teachers
•    Presenter for numerous workshops
•    Chair of Allied Arts Grant Steering Committee
•    Women’s Ministries – Woman of the Year Award
•    Public Education Foundation Highly Effective Teacher, 2002
•    Hamilton County Education Association Teacher of the Year, 2002
•    UNUM Teacher Recognition Night, 2011
•    Golden Apple Award, 2012

•     “I believe that it is necessary to meet the needs of every student in the classroom by orchestrating a classroom that is safe for learning, providing structure with procedures and routines, and holding children to high expectations,” Ms. Steele said.  “As a primary teacher, I am very aware that I am the adult in the room and it is my responsibility to give each child the support needed to learn in all areas.”

•    “I believe that my experience in both special education classrooms and regular education classrooms has given me a unique ability to identify and then provide for each child’s learning style,” Mrs. Steele stated.  “I have grown to appreciate that I have a job doing what I love to do which is teaching; not everyone has that privilege.  It is incredibly rewarding to be there in the moment that a child gets it.”

•    Ms. Steele said, “If you were to visit my room, you would see children actively involved in learning.  I believe that the learner must be engaged to learn.  I believe learning is fun and so you would see and hear lots of laughter and conversations in my classroom.”

•    “We are at a very important and exciting time in education!  Things are changing and sometimes that is difficult and scary,” Ms. Steele said. “We have the opportunity to change and provide new ways to learn.  The future for the children in our classes will be very different.  It is time to provide the classroom that will prepare our children for the future that awaits them.”

•    “Ms. Steele views all students in her class as individual learners and strives to do whatever it takes to meet their educational needs,” Ooltewah Elementary Principal Mr. Tom Arnold wrote in his letter of recommendation.  “Entering her classroom, you will experience a classroom environment that represents every type of learner.  She has the unique ability to teach her students to accept all differences and respect each other’s thoughts and opinions.  Her students are always excited about learning and her classroom environment is a constant buzz of activity.”

•    “As a new colleague at Ooltewah Elementary School, Mrs. Steele was one of the many teachers to embrace me with much warmth and support,” Ms. Cothran wrote in her letter of recommendation.  “It is because of Mrs. Steele’s openness to others and her desire to know her students and the teachers around her that I felt comfortable sharing ideas with her and asking her thoughts.”

•    A parent, Tobie Appel said, “I really could go on and on about Ms. Steele and how much she is loved, respected and cherished for just being the person she is.  While writing this letter, I asked my son to tell me what one word he would use to describe Ms. Steele.  His answer was FABULOUS.”

Kathee Jones, Grade 5, Nolan Elementary School, Grades 5-8 Division
•    22 years teaching experience
•    6 years teaching experience in Tennessee public schools
•    Presenter for several workshops
•    Grade level leader
•    Robotics and Science Olympiad coach
•    Coordinator of DAR (Daughters of American Revolution) student essays
•    Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Committee
•    Nolan Elementary Teacher of the Year, 2010
•    Nolan Elementary PTA Teacher of the Year, 2013
•    Nolan Elementary Teacher of the Year, 2014

•     “My classroom is organized chaos.  I strongly believe all children can learn,” Ms. Jones said.  ”My classroom is a place that is always in action.  In my classroom, we celebrate the gifts and struggles of the individual.  Education should embrace the creative side of a student.”

•    “Teaching is rewarding for me because I am granted the unique opportunity to take a miraculous journey every year with young people,” Ms. Jones stated.  “I am honored and proud to be a part of this journey.”

•    “I have used strategies that work and I am deeply connected to the subject I teach.  My students can feel my passion for teaching,” Ms. Jones said.  “I can make the reluctant writers fall in love with writing a story or an essay.”

•    Ms. Jones said, “Teaching is powerful.  I have several pieces of advice for my fellow colleagues:
- Keep your heart and mind open
- Collaborate with other professionals
- You have been given a gift so lose yourself in your craft.
- You were called to do a task few can do.  Embrace the task.  
- Stay connected to yourself and students  
- Accept challenges  
- Do not allow your spirit to be broken.”

•    “Ms. Jones has served the students and families of Nolan Elementary School as an effective teacher and respected community member,” Nolan Elementary Principal Dr. Shane Harwood wrote in his letter of recommendation.  “In regards to her effectiveness as a fifth grade teacher, well over 82% of the students have annually scored proficient and advanced in reading/language arts on the state assessment.  Mrs. Jones has contributed to the overall school-wide literacy composite score being a 5 over the past two years.”

•    A colleague, Mrs. Daniel said “While working with Ms. Jones, I have been continually impressed with her commitment to excellence.  She is uncompromising in her drive for quality educational opportunities for all of her students, past and present. Ms. Jones is articulate and compassionate.  She is forthright and keeps team members motivated and enthusiastic with her positive energy.”

•    A student, Olivia Koontz stated, “Ms. Jones is a very helpful teacher with a great personality.  She helps her students prepare for 6th grade and higher level grades.  She helps us believe that we can get through fifth grade.  Ms. Jones is a wonderful teacher and has a wonderful style of teaching.”

Tiffany Williams, English, Tyner Academy, Grades 9-12 Division
•    Nine years of teaching experience
•    Nine years of teaching experience in Tennessee public schools
•    Science Academy, senior advisor
•    BETA club sponsor
•    Presenter for several workshops
•    Literacy Leader representative
•    Cooperating teacher for many student teachers
•    Completed Advance Placement training for English Language and Composition
•    Tyner Academy Teacher of the Year, 2014

•    “I believe being able to evolve and grow is what makes my teaching successful,” Ms. Williams said.  “One aspect that has been rewarding is learning my students, inside and outside the classroom.  My students consider me an anchor of support in and out of the classroom.”

•    “Being an English teacher has been especially rewarding in that I am able to share my love of reading with students who love to read as well and make it not so painful for those that do not,” Ms. Williams stated.  “I pride myself of having a classroom where students are challenging themselves and reflective about their learning.”

•    “I believe teaching should be student focused.  I want my students to leave my room able to think critically in a college setting as well as on their first job,” Ms. Williams said.  “My students have very strong opinions.  My job has been to show them to take those opinions, backed with textual evidence and use it effectively so that they can truly be heard.”

•    Ms. Williams said, “My message to fellow teachers would be that we are all in this together.  Every day will not be perfect, learn from mistakes and move on.  Every day is a new opportunity to do great things and impact a life.  Realize that you don’t know everything and your students can teach you a great deal.  Always teach with rigor and passion, your kids will surprise you and rise to the occasion.  Laugh with your students…a lot.”

•    “Ms. Williams has been an excellent addition to the staff at Tyner.  She shares with her students her time, her talent, and her love of literature,” Tyner Academy Principal Carol Goss wrote in her letter of recommendation.  “Her students grow in their knowledge of literature, writing and grammar.  The transition to Common Core is evident in her classroom.  I consistently hear her ask her students, ‘What in the text supports your answer?’  Students remain engaged in her classroom and are thinking deeper and producing better quality work.”

•    “My students, seniors who hadn’t taken Ms. Williams’ class since their eighth grade year, still talked about her influence on their education,” Dr. Renneisen, a colleague said in her letter of recommendation.  “It is her method of teaching that clearly sets her apart.  The Great Gatsby has been a standby in our school system for 20 years, a book teachers love but students hate.  I have even begun to question why we are still teaching an outdated text, one that typically does not engage our students.  Ms. Williams, however, made me a believer.  She more than taught The Great Gatsby: not only did her students love the book, but they became part of the book, dressing up as guests at one of Jay Gatsby’s parties and delivering eulogies.  Such participation transcends mere engagement.”

•    A student, Mark Montgomery Jr. said, “Ms. Williams is not just a teacher.  She is a woman of incredible strength and love for what she does in life.  She is a teacher but she is also a comforter and mother figure to those who need her.  Her expectations are high but she does whatever it takes to help all her students reach those expectations.  Without her, I would have allowed my fear to prevent me from trying something new.  I am now a senior and preparing for graduation and Ms. Williams has been there every step of the way with me.  She is a true teacher who loves her students, inspires her students, and truly believes in all of us.”

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