Weakley County Names Teachers of the Year

School and District Level Teachers Acknowledged
Posted on 02/12/2020
This is the image for the news article titled School and District Level Teachers AcknowledgedFirst selected by their peers, then acknowledged through a committee review, three Weakley County Teachers of the Year will now proceed to a regional level and possibly on to be named the state’s Teacher of the Year.

Lauren Campbell of Martin Primary, Tori Shepherd of Sharon School and Linda Farmer of Greenfield School were named as this year’s Teachers of the Year after already receiving the nod from the teachers with whom they work.

Applications for the regional Teacher of the Year are due Feb. 28. By the end of March, regional judges will have selected three (one for preK-4, 5th-8th, 9th-12th) for each of Tennessee’s nine regions. Nine finalists will be named by the end of June with the top teacher tapped to be celebrated in a September event.

A Tennessee Teacher of the Year candidate must be a full-time, certified, in good standing, pre-K–12 teacher in a state-accredited Tennessee public school at each stage of the recognition process; spend the majority of the school day in direct instruction to students; have a minimum of three years of experience as a teacher in Tennessee public schools; and have a track record of exceptional gains in student achievement.

Teachers of the Year by school in Pre-K through 4th Grade are Alyssa Bynum, Dresden Elementary School; Sherri Brawner, Gleason School; Jan Mitchell, Greenfield School; April Fishel, Martin Elementary School; Lauren Campbell, Martin Primary School; Kristi Parsley, Sharon School.

In 5th Grade through 8th Grade, teaching peers selected Katie West, Dresden Middle School; Amy Orr, Gleason School; Anna Bryant, Greenfield School; Robin Pape, Martin Elementary School; Becky Mullins, Martin Middle School; Tori Shepherd, Sharon School.

For 9th Grade through 12th Grade, the school Teachers of the Year are Jacob Abbott, Dresden High School; Jessica Collins, Gleason School; Linda Farmer, Greenfield School; Kimberly Elliott, Westview High School.

Lauren Campbell
Lauren Campbell
“Criss-cross applesauce. Spoons in bowls.”
With that bit of coded instruction, Lauren Campbell’s kindergarten class sat cross-legged on the floor with hands in their laps awaiting their next instruction for the posed group photograph.

Martin resident Campbell teaches at Martin Primary. And, after being selected by her peers as their school-wide Teacher of the Year, went on to claim the district recognition as well.

She has worked at MPS for the entirety of her eight-year teaching career. She has a BS in Education from the University of Tennessee at Martin and an MS in education from Arkansas State University where she also became an Educational Specialist last year.

In her application, Campbell writes during her short career, she has already seen a shift in kindergarten classrooms, “By integrating rich texts, utilizing high quality writing tasks, and incorporating vocabulary into my daily literacy block, I am seeing students grow by leaps and bounds. Students are using the information acquired from stories and texts, and then are applying those concepts in their reading and writing. Last year alone, many students were able to show three or more levels of growth in reading and writing according to the state’s portfolio rubric.”

She says that she is excited to be a part of the newly created Charger Foundation Teacher Advisory Board. She is looking forward to achieving several of the advocacy and fundraising group’s goals including a weekly teacher spotlight, tutoring and mentoring, and more grants for each of the Martin schools.

A highlight of Campbell’s year has become the time her students spend on an Interdependence unit discussing helpers in the community. While discussing this unit, students learn about how to contribute to their community, as well as those around them who are helpers.

“We invite different people in our community to visit with our students and share their job descriptions and how they each help the community. The students love these visits, and I think it is one of their favorite parts of the unit. We have had fire fighters, police officers along with the K9 unit, veterinarians, bankers, mechanics, and doctors, just to name a few, to visit our school. In turn, students write thank you notes to their favorite visitors,” Campbell explained.

In the culminating task for the unit, students dress as their chosen worker and create a poster that describes their selected job and discuss how their worker helps the community. Another piece of this unit is encouraging students to care for others.

Last year, that caring took on the form of collecting items for the Target House for the Anna Kate Fight Foundation. Students were encouraged to bring in items to donate to families whose children were battling cancer.

“There was an overwhelming number of items brought in, from toothbrushes to laundry detergent to baby diapers. Students enjoyed showing compassion for others and caring for those in need,” Campbell concluded. “Teaching students the importance of being compassionate members of our community is a top priority of teachers at Martin Primary School. “

Tori Shepherd
Tori Shepherd
Each year, Tori Shepherd encourages her middle school students at Sharon School to find their voice by researching and listening to the voices of history. The caliber of their work has been so impressive that they then are invited to speak out at gatherings of current day leaders and even Holocaust survivors. Shepherd’s efforts have earned her the recognition of both Sharon School’s and Weakley County’s Teacher of the Year for grades 5-8.

Shepherd lives in Greenfield and commutes to Sharon teach 6th grade social studies and 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts. She has been teaching in public schools for the entirety of her 10-year career. The University of Memphis graduate who received her Bachelor of Arts in Education also works in the after school tutoring program, serves as the BETA club sponsor, and is a Mentor Teacher. As a new-this-year Expeditionary Learning Representative, she traveled to other counties, observed and then conducted a workshop in Weakley County to train her peers.

“True teaching isn’t just about pushing standards but also pushing each student to be their best possible self and reaching their full potential both inside and outside of the classroom,” she explained, noting that through classroom management tools, students understand her expectations as soon as they enter the classroom.

That “pushing” can take the form of a rigorous unit with multiple texts and activities such as reading both the play The Diary of Anne Frank and the novel Diary of a Young Girl along with excerpts of Night by Ellie Wiesel. They conduct research on concentration camps and internment camps, present speeches on famous political leaders during World War II and hear from a representative from the TN Holocaust Commission.

Their work has garnered praise and invitations to present to the Governor and other state representatives at the Capitol building. During one occasion, her students performed a scene from the Diary of Anne Frank to rave reviews. On the other occasion, students wrote ekphrastic poetry, which is poetry written about or to the subject in a photograph. After bringing pictures taken at concentration camps, students chose a picture and wrote a poem. Their poetry and picture were put on display at the Capitol building for all guests to view. Students got to meet and shake hands with Holocaust survivors as well as government representatives.

“I have seen through this, firsthand, my students growing exponentially as well as myself as an educator. I try to make teaching as fun and engaging as possible for my students tailoring units to unique learning styles and interests,” she said.

“I feel like I am constantly improving this unit year by year. Students look forward to their 8th grade year with me simply because of this unit which makes me so happy and proud at the same time. I have seen this impact my students inside and outside of the classroom. I have seen what an interest in course material can do for my instruction and their understanding. Even better so, I have seen my students become more kind, welcoming, and understandable of people with special needs and different religious preferences simply because of this unit,” she shared.

Linda Farmer
Linda Farmer
Not every math teacher can transform Christmas carols into opportunities to review the quadratic formula but Linda Farmer can. And those talents and skills used both inside and out of the classroom, garnered the Dresden resident her third nod by her peers as Greenfield School’s Teacher of the Year for 9th through 12th grades. 2020 marks the second time she’s advanced to the district level recognition.

Farmer’s career began 14 years ago. She currently instructs on high school mathematics. She has a BS in Secondary Education (Mathematics) from The University of Tennessee—Martin, a BM in Piano Pedagogy from UTM and an MA in Mathematics Education from the Western Governors University.

“I try to emphasize perseverance in mathematics, knowing that the subject does not come easily for many students but can be learned with practice and patience,” she acknowledged.

The effort is paying off as seen when she takes students to the local math contest held each spring at UTM. She takes around 10 students and they compete against between 30 and 60 others. At least 47 have finished in the top 10 in their subject since 2008 and 23 in the top 3.

Farmer’s music background has meant she’s helped with the Veterans Day program, directed and accompanied the 11th grade chorus for graduation, directed the senior play as part of a Music History class she taught and even created the “Quadratic Caroling” where her students sing the quadratic formula set to songs like Jingle Bells.

Her love of music is evident in her activities outside the classroom. She is the organist at Adams Chapel Baptist Church, a private piano teacher, member of the Martin Community Band, and has leadership roles in the Martin Area Music Teachers Association and Martin Philharmonic Music Guild.

“I am glad our district is working to provide more opportunities for musical classes. The new rotating music teacher for the district schools will be teaching beginning ukulele soon during her once weekly class, and I intend to go some during my planning period to learn with the students. They need to feel valued for choosing to be a part of this class and know that the full time staff notice their work,” she said.

As for community involvement, Farmer turns toward Greenfield’s focus this year on principles of integrity, respect, and unity — “qualities students must learn and practice as they get ready to enter the community more fully.” She points out, “The statistics class is easier to connect to students’ roles as informed citizens. Besides the technical aspects of the course, I also focus on developing statistical literacy so that students can better evaluate numbers presented to them through all types of media and learn about how research is conducted properly. We discuss real life factors that affect various statistics. I believe this creates more knowledgeable voters for local, state, and national elections and hopefully some future representatives in office.”