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2017-2018 School Level Teachers of the Year
Posted On:
Friday, January 27, 2017


UPDATE:  The District Teachers of the Year Have Been Announced!


Congratulations to Hamblen County’s school-level Teachers of the Year for 2017-2018.

From this impressive list of educators, three will be chosen to represent the school district in their respective categories. A team of educators from Moore County will be deciding the winners this year.  


AL-Mark Wolfenbarger VIDEO

JH-Misty Hance VIDEO

LE-Amanda Maynard VIDEO

MN-Jackie Queener VIDEO

RV-Natasha Henson VIDEO

WE-Justin Whaley VIDEO

WB-Mandy Smith VIDEO



ER-Vicki Brady VIDEO

FV-Sarah Cooper VIDEO

HC-DanNell Cameron VIDEO

LM-Kendall Bryant VIDEO

MV-Sandy Pittman VIDEO

UH-Jenny Russell VIDEO

WT-Heather Martin VIDEO

WV-Jenny Robinson VIDEO



MB- Emily Gwinn VIDEO

WH-Hannah Lane VIDEO

EH- Carol Rouse VIDEO





Misty Hance

John Hay 

Fourth grade ELA and social studies teacher Misty Hance is John Hay’s Teacher of the Year. A 21-year teacher, Hance is currently working toward an Ed.D in administrative leadership from CNU. She has an EdS in school leadership from ETSU, a master’s degree from UT, a bachelor’s degree from CNU, and is a graduate of WSCC.

 “Teaching is my passion, and student achievement is my goal,” Hance says of her career.

 Hance, selected as Hamblen County DOE Learning Leader, is charged with the responsibility of creating Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) within her school.  “The goal of each PLC is to focus on student work in an effort to improve student achievement,” she said. “It is transferring the focus from teaching to learning within each classroom.”

 At John Hay, there are grade-level Learning Teams that meet weekly to share results of common assessments and make goals for students. “We also have cross-grade level, student-driven Learning Teams…to share similar data, create common assessments, and learn about current best practices in that particular subject,” she explained.


John Hay is transforming the vision of the stakeholders. “Our student achievement is growing, as we focus on the four essential questions that Richard DuFour, an expert in the PLC field, suggests,” she said. “This guides us to focus on our students’ individual goals, assessments, interventions, and enrichments. The PLC process also has a focus on professional development. As each teacher attends, information is shared in the Learning Team, creating life-long learners in all our members.”


As a Learning Leader, Hance meets monthly with the county team to learn new strategies for strengthening the PLC culture and shares with John Hay’s team. “Through this initiative, I believe we are growing stronger. The culture of our school is focused on sharing and building success,” she said.


John Hay has turned the “my classroom” attitude into “our school, our students” attitude. “The culture of the school system also is growing stronger, as we lean on one another for support, admit our needs, and share our strengths,” she said. “As the focus has shifted from teaching to learning, we are all looking at how each individual learns, and are focused on each child to make gains.”


Hance, who believes everyone learns better through collaboration, provides her students the chance to work together and strengthen their knowledge of technology, such as ThingLink and Office 365. 


“If we involve students in the teaching process, the amount they learn is magnified,” she said.

“Students love to create PowerPoint presentations and share what they have learned. Once they use ThingLink, they beg to use it in every lesson possible. I use this format throughout the year, and the success is evident by the knowledge they gain and retain.”


At John Hay, Hance, who serves as principal designee, has served as Blue Ribbon School Application Committee chair, Thoughtful Classroom instructional leader, and on the Curriculum and Standards committee.



Natasha Henson

Russellville Elementary


First grade teacher Natasha Henson is Russellville Elementary’s Teacher of the Year.  A 10-year teacher, Henson has two degrees from WSCC and a bachelor’s of arts from Tusculum College.


A Hamblen County Department of Education Learning Leader, Henson has been responsible for implementing the Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) at Russellville.


“The PLC process has shifted my focus from teaching to student learning, not only in my classroom, but also in our entire grade level,” she said.  “We meet as a grade level and collaboratively set standards-based goals for our first grade students and then monitor student learning and progress.”


She explained that four questions drive every student learning goal:

·      What do we want each student to learn?

·       How will we know when each student achieves mastery?

·       What will we do when a student does not master the goal?

·      What will we do if the student already has met the goal.


“My belief is that all students can demonstrate significant progress toward mastery of a standard and/or concept,” she said. “Throughout the PLC process, although at different rates, 100 percent of my students demonstrated growth.”


A Level Five teacher and a former grade level chair, Henson created a chart with each student goal. “Each student knew his or her individual goal and expectations for mastery,” she said. “My students have begun to take ownership of their learning and are eager to demonstrate progress and eventually mastery.”


A creative educator, an example of Henson’s teaching enthusiasm is demonstrated when she initiated a schoolwide igloo project. Staff and students brought recycled, white milk jugs.  The project, constructed in the school lobby, created opportunities for many conversations and lessons including estimating the amount of jugs needed, the circumference, the study of Eskimos and their culture, polar bears and habitats, and so much more.


After the igloo was construction, it was used as a reading room into which the student had to crawl. 


After the students tore down the igloo the jugs were picked up by the recycling center, which enhanced the lesson on recycling.  “The recycling workers told the students that this was the largest recycling pickup they had received,” Henson said. “This made our students swell with pride.”



Amanda Maynard

Lincoln Elementary


Amanda Maynard, second grade math teacher, is Teacher of the Year at Lincoln Elementary. An eight-year educator, she holds a master’s degree from LMU, and a bachelor’s degree from UT.


As a math teacher, Maynard believes it is important that students have time for exploration when learning new math skills. “It is in using hands-on manipulatives and lots of collaboration among students that higher achievement is obtained,” she said.


Once she gave her students a tough math task in which they completed in small groups. “Students were discussing strategies for solving the problem,  using their math tools, and explaining their thinking using accountable talk,” she explained. “It was everything a teacher could hope for. When it was time to take a break and go to gym, one student responded, ‘Oh, Man! We were having so much fun!’ Another student said, ‘Yeah, we were just getting to the good part.’”


Maynard said those are the moments she lives for as a teacher. “My students were engaged, working together to solve a problem, persevering through the difficult task, all while having fun. I believe that learning should be fun, and I try to do this by giving my students time for discussion and discovery.”


For the past six months, Maynard has been working on the Item Review Committee for the Grade 2 Assessment and Grade 2 Alternative Assessment. “This has given me valuable insight on what second graders will be tested on and how the test will be presented,” she said. “As an item reviewer, I had the opportunity to view questions on the math assessment, and give recommendations…I feel that I was able to be an advocate for the students, as well as the teachers of Hamblen County.”


While she may not be able to tell teachers specifically what is on the assessment, she is able to share some of the formatting, time limits, and how items are aligned to the standards. “I will be facilitating a meeting with fellow second grade teachers to discuss what I have learned…the role I played in this assessment will no doubt benefit every second grade student and teacher in our county.”


At Lincoln, Maynard serves as math leader, has facilitated countywide professional development, and has been involved in the summer reading program.



 Mandy Smith



Third grade teacher Mandy Smith is Whitesburg Teacher of the Year.  She has a Master of Arts in education/curriculum and instruction, with an emphasis in special education, from Tusculum College.


Cooperative learning defines her teaching strategy. “Cooperative learning engages all students in the learning process because all students are required to work together to achieve the ultimate goal of learning,” she said. “Cooperative learning has to be explicitly taught for it to be effective.


“Students have to be taught how to talk to one another and be held accountable in cooperative learning groups,” she continued, explaining that “modeling” is the best way to teach students to work together.


She said research shows that cooperative learning improves student achievement. “I am dedicated to instilling a love of learning into the heart of every student I teach, and preparing him/her for college or the workforce,” she said.


Her teaching has resulted in high levels of growth and learning for all students. “I believe I have achieved these results because I take sincere interest in the needs of each and every student. I take time to get to know every one of my students and learn their strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “This enables me to develop a close relationship with my students. I am able to show them that my job is to ensure their success in school. When I forge this connection, my students are able to see what I see in them and they are willing to do what they need to achieve success.”


At Whitesburg, Smith has been involved in the Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings, which she sees as creating an improvement to school culture, positive attitudes and collaboration.


A member of the School Improvement Committee, Smith also serves on the art committee and is a resource provider.




Jacqueline Queener

Manley Elementary


Kindergarten teacher Jaqueline Queener is Manley’s Teacher of the Year. A 37-year educator, Queener holds an EdS from LMU, a master’s in education from Tusculum, and a bachelor’s degree from UT.  


Before joining the Manley faculty, Queener taught second and third grade at Fairview-Marguerite.  At Manley she has been the kindergarten team leader for 17 years. She also has served as Relay for Life coordinator, Jump Start Summer School Coordinator, and as a member of the School Improvement Committee.


Queener believes that every student can learn, and each day her goal is to give them 100 percent of her abilities. “My lessons are presented in a manner that involves the specific and unique needs of all students,” she said.


“As a teacher we use a vast number of research-based strategies and tools to reach all students,” Queener said, giving as an example, the Scarbrough’s reading rope where they explore comprehensive skills, fluency, vocabulary, language and decoding skills.


“All of these skills are intertwined together just like the fibers of a rope to create a successful, fluent reader,” she said. “In this setting we are divided into the homogenous groups, with each group learning the same TN state standard and objectives. The students all work on the same sight words as a class, but are in different activity levels, and learning at different rates.”


She also utilizes reading across the curriculum, which gives students the opportunity to enage in information text, as well as fiction.


“These strategies clearly engage all students, from reading aloud in groups, explaining the text, writing independently, listening, comprehending a story, illustrating the story, and punctuating the sentences about the story,” Queener said.


“My teaching and classroom mirrors an environment that encompasses focusing on the whole child, “Queener said. “I differentiate my instruction based on each student’s academic needs. It is my philosophy of teaching that children must know you care before they care what you know.”



Mark Wolfenbarger

Alpha Elementary


Mark Wolfenbarger, physical education teacher, is Alpha’s Teacher of the year. A teacher for 25 years, he holds a bachelor’s degree from CNU. 


Team leader for special area teachers, Wolfenbarger also is a member of the Crisis Team, is Healthy School Team leader, and is the Head Basketball Coach for the Bulldogs


After attending a professional development session addressing Marzano’s use of academic language across all curriculums to enhance comprehension in all subject areas, Wolfenbarger initiated a program in his class at incorporates grade level terms in math, English language arts, science, and social studies into his classes.


“I collaborated with K-5 teachers asking for particular vocabulary they believed would be instrumental to a student’s understanding of grade-level curriculum,” he said. “I teach six grade levels daily and as grade levels change, I change the specific vocabulary as appropriate.”


Students are asked to consider the role vocabulary worlds like “consecutive,” “angle,” “slant,” “prediction,” and “data” have in connection with the physical education activity they are being asked to perform.


“For example, when teaching basic racket use, students are asked to hold the racket at a slant, and at a 90-degree angle,” he said. “They are asked to keep data tracking their consecutive hits. I ten challenge them to use the daily term correctly…This initiative has been instrumental in getting students not normally inclined to enjoy studying vocabulary….”


“As an educator, this challenge keeps me fresh and interested in the curriculum I teach,” Wolfenbarger said. “It gives me both greater interaction with the students I teach, and a chance to have meaningful exchanges with my colleagues. Using this initiative, borrowing from Blue Ribbon Schools best practices, and having a chance for collaboration with other educators about the success my students has served to bring a greater sense of joy in my heart and for the subject I teach.”


Wolfenbarger said he has “found time and again that students react and respond to this joy for teaching with a joy for learning from within themselves. It is a true win-win situation, and what coach doesn’t love that””


Justin Whaley

West Elementary


Justin Whaley, third grade math, science, and reading teacher, is West Elementary’s Teacher of the Year. He earned his bachelor’s degree from CNU.


Whaley believes learning should be applicable to everyday life. “Student should apply the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to everyday situations, most importantly, outside the classroom,” he said. “I heavily emphasize the critical thinking process throughout all my math and science lessons, as it encourages students to see an otherwise simple observation as a potentially deep and meaningful exploration.


“When scientists come across a new element, there is a scientific process they use to identify it.  Whether it be studying rocks, math equations, or scientific inquiry, students should be encouraged to use analytical and synthesizing thinking strategies. The depth of learning flows from these processes,” he said.


On the playground, his students frequently bring him rocks or other unusual objects and love describing their physical properties and purporting their own questions and observations, such as where the objects could have originated or how they were made.


Whaley attributes growth in his classroom to collaboration with his third grade team. “Everyday we meet before and after school to common plan, review data, create assessments, and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of our lessons.”


They also have been known to interrupt one an another in the middle of a lesson to share a “eureka” moment, such as a question, demonstration, observation, or explanation provided by a teacher or student that led to strong student understanding of the learning.  


At West Elementary, Whaley leads the Ties and Bowties (young men’s club). Every Tuesday, boys in grades K-5 meet before school and discuss matters of self-improvement – strategies of being a gentleman. “A few of our topics  include building a positive self-image, how to dress professionally, how to present yourself in a respectful manner (shaking hands, making eye contact, being respectful, building a good reputation.),” he explained. “Students are given challenges to apply to their daily lives in and outside of school.” 


 He also leads the Green Team, and is a member of the Reading Committee.



Vicki Brady

East Ridge


East Ridge Social Health (Teen Living) teacher Vicki Brady, who has taught 38 years, is her school’s Teacher of the Year. A graduate of WSCC, she also holds Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Tennessee.


“I am very enthusiastic about that I do and enjoy teaching as much as I did the day I started,” Brady said of her 38-year tenure.  Her new focus is Career Readiness skills which includes the soft skills of teamwork, professionalism, communication, enthusiasm and attitude, critical thinking and networking.


She explained that the Teen Living curriculum is not specifically tested on the TNReady test. “However I help increase students’ test scores by requiring them to use their reading and writing skills in my class as they accomplish the Teen Living State Standards,” she said.  “I require students to read for meaning and use critical thinking skills as they complete individual and group projects.”


She makes sure her students gain valuable information about things such as money management, child care, nutrition, personal development, and career choices that will prepare them for living independently in the future. “The true test of how effective I have been as a teacher is measured by my students’ readiness for life as adults,” she added.


Her professional development includes Career Exploration and Family Life curriculum.  “I have worked hard to develop lessons that encourage my students to use good judgment and decision-making skills related to personal relationships, reducing teen pregnancy, and personal safety,” she said. “I believe that as a result of completing this curriculum, my students are able to make important decisions that can have a direct bearing on their ability to reach their personal and career goals in life.”

Kendall Bryant

Lincoln Middle School


Kendall Bryant, seventh and eighth grade science teacher, is Lincoln Middle School’s Teacher of the Year. Bryant, who has taught for 28 years, received his bachelor’s degree from CNU.


“My favorite lessons are those that allow students to work collaboratively in lab groups to identify, solve, and interpret information related to the topic,” Bryant said, citing as an example a lab that requires students to identify tools needed to conduct science experiments.


“I believe that if students are engaged in hands-on, real-life experiences they are better prepared to be successful during testing,” he said. “Testing scores in the classroom provide evidence that students score higher on the assessments that are related to these hands-on activities.”


Bryant’s teaching style has proven that by raising student expectations, we are able to close gaps in student performance. “I am able to teach students who may have different learning abilities and help every group improve and grow,” he said. “By using test scores and student portfolios, I am able to challenge students to be better critical thinkers and problem solvers.”


Bryant explained that at LHMS, “We believe that culturally enriching field trips matter. We believe these trips produce significant benefits for students on a variety of educational outcomes that will ultimately affect them far beyond their time in middle school,” he said.


“These trips  are an effective way to supplement and enrich academic content, increase students’ tolerance by providing exposure to a broader world, and improve the ability of students to recognize what other people are thinking or feeling.”


Bryant, noting that not all learning occurs most effectively within the walls of the school building, applied for and received a grant from the TN Arts Commission to take the entire seventh grade on a trip to see a play at the Clarence Brown Theatre.  This included transportation and the performance for each student.


“Having a population of students who may not have had the opportunity to attend live theatre makes us grateful for the chance to make it possible for our students,” Bryant said.


Currently serving as seventh grade team leader, Bryant has served as a credit recovery teacher, a member of the School Improvement Plan, and on the Science textbook selection committee.  He is also the freshmen boys basketball coach at Morristown West.


Before joining the LHMS faculty, Bryant taught and coached at East High and West High.




DanNell Cameron


Hillcrest Elementary’s Teacher of the Year is a fifth grade math and science teacher. With four years in her present position, Cameron has taught for 23 years and holds a bachelor’s degree from ESTU.


At Hillcrest, Cameron has taught third, fourth, and fifth grades. Prior to coming to Hamblen County she was a teacher in Union County.


Cameron, who has maintained a “5” level since the implementation of the TEAM evaluation model, said student motivation is the key to teaching any lesson.  “Students must feel connected to the lesson and have an interest in what is being taught in order to relate to the subject matter,” she said.  “It is my responsibility to incorporate a certain degree of rigor and high energy into my teaching,” she said, adding that humor also is a needed ingredient.


A believer in differentiated instruction, Cameron said, “Giving students multiple ways of learning and understanding content provide each one with experiences that improve learning.” These include the use of technology, using diverse types of strategies when working math problems, whole-group instruction, guided practice, group work, peer tutoring, task cards, and other interactive games for math and science, interactive notebooks, etc. “I make an effort to create the best learning experience possible in order to meet individual needs,” she said.


Cameron is a champion of ongoing use of assessments, both formative and summative, which can lead to high levels of growth in the classroom.


“I make great efforts to integrate a sense of community within my classes,” Cameron said. “From day one, I work to cultivate relationships. Likewise, students should feel free to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Students should have a sense of belonging and feel valued in order to want to come to school each day and be eager to learn and participate.”


Cameron, who serves on the school’s Data Team and has presented to district officials, currently serves as a contributor to the school improvement plan, is a new teacher mentor, new teacher practicum supervisor, is Beta Club sponsor and has served as yearbook advisor and editor for the past three years.


She has served as Team Leader, Title I committee member, and Math Vertical-Team facilitator.


Cameron has an extensive resume of high quality instructional professional development as an educator, including the transition to the state math standards.  
“These sessions were the most thorough and in-depth trainings I have ever received and pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she said.


After her rigorous trainings, Cameron was able to go back and collaborate with other math teachers to meet in Vertical Teams. “Equipped to facilitate these meetings after I received additional leadership training I was able to lead my team as we shared what we found to be successful and areas where we needed more guidance and direction.”




Sarah Cooper



Sarah Cooper, fifth grade English language arts and social studies teacher, is Fairview-Marguerite’s Teacher of the Year.  A graduate of WSCC, Cooper earned her master’s degree from CNU and a bachelor’s degree from ETSU.


“As an educator, I am charged with the important task of helping students become successful readers, historically conscious learners, strong thinkers, fluent writers, and savvy conversationalists,” Cooper said. “Since our school’s serviced English Language Learner population is more than 45 percent, and our free and reduced lunch percentage reaches over 93 percent, we have a lot of obstacles to overcome.”


Cooper added, “Reading, communicating what we think and feel, and understanding the world around us has been an area of weakness for our learners for many reasons.”


Last year, Cooper’s students joined tens of thousands of other classrooms across the globe read a book together in a project called the Global Read Aloud. “The goal is to connect reading with authentic learning experiences through classroom lessons, author connections, writing engagement and technology integration.”


The first book, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, allowed students to learn about a character with severe learning disabilities, who hated school, was misunderstood by her classmates, struggled getting along with her teacher, and faced issues at home.  “Immediately learners who had been reluctant to participate before were able to connect with the characters in the novel,” Cooper said. “The story meant something to them. As the story progressed, our conversations and learning connections grew deeper.”


Cooper, who believes all students can learn, said, “We have to provide them with learning experiences that meet the needs of every learner. The language we speak, the home lives we are surrounded by, the socio-economic statuses we are categorized into, and the learning struggles that we face do not define us. Through the use of technology, we are able to open doors to the world to which they might otherwise not have access.”


A District Learning Leader, Cooper said, “We create our classroom lessons and learning experiences around the belief that all students can learn and accomplish great things.”


Cooper, who has been a speaker and presenter both locally, statewide, and nationally, is an educational blogger, through which she shares classroom lessons and strategies to help other educators. She manages professional Twitter and Instagram accounts used as Professional Learning Networks to collaborate with teachers, administrators, communities, and organizations locally and globally.



Heather Martin

Witt Elementary


Fifth grade math, science, spelling and English teacher Heather Martin is Witt Elementary’s Teacher of the Year. A 10-year teacher, seven years spent in fifth grade, Martin holds a master’s in educational administration and supervision from LMU and a bachelor’s degree from Tusculum in elementary education.


Active learning describes Martin’s teaching strategy. “Students tend to obtain and comprehend things better when they are actively talking, reading, listening, writing, or reflecting,” Martin said. “This enables students to be key part of the learning process.”


She cites as example when her science students made their own roller coasters to illustrate potential and kinetic energy.  “This helped students understand the difference between the two kinds of energy and be able to tell me which type was illustrated,” she said. “They were actively involved in the learning process.”


They had to work with their peers to create and develop the coaster and agree on the correct type of energy.  “Active learning helps stimulate critical thinking,” she said. “Students learn better by doing.”


Throughout her tenure, Martin has seen student growth in different areas of the state assessment, as well as local and school testing.


At Witt, Martin coaches the girls’ basketball team, serves as Beta Club sponsor, works with fundraisers, is the school’s webmaster, newsletter editor, yearbook editor, and oversees the school’s social media. Previously she coached softball at both East and West high schools.


She co-chaired the American Cancer Society drive at Witt for the past three years. A Witt student had a cancer-like illness. Martin worked with the school to raise money for cancer research. “This brought our faculty and our school together for a great cause,” she said.


 Sandra Pittman

Meadowview Middle


Seventh grade language arts teacher Sandra Pittman, Meadowview’s Teacher of the Year, received her bachelor’s degree from State University of New York, and her master’s degree from Pennsylvania State University. A 21-year educator, she has spent the last 13 at Meadowview.


Pittman demonstrates her love for reading to her students. “Many middle school students have begun to see reading as a less than desirable pastime,” she said. “It is my ardent hope that my students will read for pleasure, as well as for acquired information.”


Pittman’s goal is to engage her students in meaningful lessons that will further their knowledge and enthusiasm about language arts in particular and academics in general.  “The teaching strategy that I attempt to consistently use in my lessons is treating students like they are the center of my world,” Pittman said.


After watching an interview with Robin Pingeton, the head coach of the Missouri’s basketball coach, Pittman quoted her saying, “They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”


That statement resonated with Pittman. “It reflects my overall belief in education,” she said. “I believe that I have a great deal to offer my students, but until they know that I care about them as individuals not only in my classroom, but also outside of my room, they will not truly engage in the lessons that I prepare each day.


“Middle school is a difficult time for many young people, and most look to their teachers to demonstrate caring and sincere concern for their overall being,” she said. “Once rapport has been established, it is easy to motivate them to do well and to assist them in believing in their own success.”


After a literacy conference at Walters State where she was motivated by children’s author Lester Laminack, Pittman began to use picture books to scaffold information for students before they were presented more difficult historical information.


This led to Pittman, along with fellow teacher Kerry Stacy, developing cross-curricular summer programs for students. The first program centered around the Holocaust and the second around slavery and the Underground Railroad. The third year concentrated on Coming to America – Immigration to the United States.  


They look forward to another summer program. “I believe we are having great success with these programs because we are making learning fun. It is enjoyable for our students as well as our adults.”


Pittman was the VFW Teacher of the Year, was a Hootie Award recipient, and has coached six district-level winners of the Modern Woodmen Oration Contest, and three Beta Club state winners of the Writing Contest.


Jenny Robinson

West View


Seventh grade social studies teacher Jenny Robinson is West View’s Teacher of the Year. A seven-year teacher, she holds a BS degree in history with a minor in secondary education from ESTU and is a graduate of WSCC.


At West View, Robinson is the senior Social Studies teacher and yearbook editor. She has served as Builder’s Club sponsor. 


Robinson, who views history the story of humanity, feels she is more than a teacher dispensing facts and dates, but a storyteller. “History is full of characters, good and bad, plots and twists, and oh the drama,” said particularly of English history. 


She said she may, on first look, seem “old school,” but she engages students by making the stories feel real. I give the historical figures emotions that the students relate to. She illustrates her stories with vivid paintings, sculptures, and pictures, giving the people a face, the battle a scene.


That, combined with videos, help Robinson engage all students – from the advanced students who probably already knew the material to the below basic student, who may not understand the deeper historical significance of the topic.


Noting that social studies has been in flux for the past three years and that new standards were introduced for the 14-15 school year, Robinson has an achievement and individual score of 5.


Robinson’s class environment makes students feel welcome with a positive atmosphere. “Providing such an environment is very important for the lower level students because it gives them a safe space where they can feel free to express themselves,” she said. “I also stress that my students are respectful and kind to me, as well as one another.”


Her strong points are motivating students, presenting instructional content, questioning, and teacher knowledge of students. “If students are not motivated and do not see a reason to learn the material, they will not get involved and will not learn,” she explained. “If I do not present the content in a sensible way that personally connects to the students, they will not learn. If my questioning does not require the students to think and struggle and dig deeper into the subject, they will not learn.


“And most importantly, if I do not personally know my students and what they are capable of and challenge them to meet that capability every single day, they will not learn,” she said.



Jenny Russell

Union Heights Elementary


Fifth grade math and science teacher Jenny Russell is Union Heights Teacher of the Year. An East High alum, she earned her bachelor’s degree at ETSU and her master’s from CNU.  During her four years as a teacher, Russell’s students have earned the rank of highest math achievement and growth in Hamblen County.


Russell, who uses a variety of instructional strategies in her classroom, encourages positive social interaction, which leads to active engagement. “My class is composed of mixed-ability students for which I have created instructional opportunities adapted to diverse learners,” she said. “I collaborate with a variety of professionals to establish an environment that is beneficial to all students.”


Explaining that shared standards are fundamental to education, Russell said every student be provided the core concepts and have access to individualize their growth potential…I believe that truly great educators identify each individual’s educational needs and seize the opportunity to meet all students’ needs.” 


Describing herself as a “servant leader,” which she calls an educator’s “most powerful too,” Russell said, “This is not accomplished by seeking high political stature, but rather by answering the call to serve individual’s educational needs to the best of our abilities.”


She said great educators are “called,” adding, “Servant leaders focus on our influence through quality relations with others….”


Aspiring to relationship building, Russell uses communication skills to develop a community within her classroom. “As a small community, we intentionally develop therapeutic interrelationships that support educational goals that I established at the onset,” she said.


She said effective leaders lead by inspiring students to become healthy, wise, free-thinking autonomous and servant leaders themselves.


Russell believes high quality instruction. “As an educator, I provide an educational atmosphere where students have the opportunity to fulfill their potential for intellectual growth,” she said. “I use a variety of math and science instructional strategies and math practices to problem solve and analysis data and equations. I encourage positive social interaction, which I feel leads to active engagement in learning.


At Union Heights, she is a member of the Leadership Team, the School Improvement Committee and serves on the committee of state math assessment.





Emily Gwinn

Miller Boyd

English teacher Emily Gwinn, a 12-year educator, is Teacher of the Year at Miller Boyd Alternative School.  Before joining the faculty at MB, she was a teacher at East High. She holds a Masters of Education from Milligan College and a BA from Emory and Henry College in English Literature.


As a teacher Gwinn daily uses real-world connection to the curriculum. For example, she created a cross-curricular unit of English, history, and psychology titled, “The Evil with Humanity,” in which students examined various information texts and TEDTalks concerning the Milgram Experiment, the Stanford Prison Experiment, and the Abu Ghraib Prisoner Abuse report while studying the novel Night.


“The real-world connection strategy and content of the unit quickly engaged my alternative school students because they were able to utilize the information from various texts for personal reflection,” she said. “My students easily connected to the accusers and victims and discussed their reactions to authority and obedience. 


“Because they personally connected to the content within the experiments, studies, and Night, it allowed the students to have a greater understanding of self-awareness,” she added.


Students will remain engaged if they can personally connect to the curriculum and use the information to be successful citizens of their communities. “Using the real-world connections strategy is successful because of the daily participation, discussion, and reflections from each student,” she said. “In addition, students were better prepared and successfully complete the TNCore ELA test.


A four-year Level 5 teacher, Gwinn’s teaching has resulted in high levels of growth and learning for all students in her class. All administrators have commented positive feedback on student engagement and high quality curriculum within her classroom.


Her expansive leadership resume includes coordinating TNCore curriculum for English 9-12 and ninth grade state test prep strategies, implementing and leading a schoolwide professional development Effective Strategies for Struggling Students, and mentors apprentice English teachers in curriculum, planning, and classroom management.   She has led professional development workshops on Thoughtful Classroom for teachers and for students an afterschool ACT preparation and credit recovery.


In October 2016, Gwinn initiated a $5,000 technology grant to purchase 15 additional laptops for 9-12 high school English classroom students.


“With updated technology, students will be able to utilize 21st century tools to enhance collaborative communication while mastering English 9-12 standards through differentiated learning techniques, such as problem-based research projects. Most importantly, the laptops will allow students to maintain a successful learning environment while completing their mandatory placement time and return to their zoned schools on track for successful completion of English 9-12 classes.”

As of this writing, laptops are expected to arrive in mid-February. Students, staff, and administration are excitedly anticipating their arrival.



Hannah Lane

West High


Hannah Lane is the teacher of the year at West High School. A 10-year teacher, she holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees from CNU and teaches English III Honors, Regular, and Inclusion clases along with AP Psychology classes.


One of Hamblen County Schools’ Learning Leaders, Lane is working to move the faculty in a positive direction by creating a culture of collaboration centered on student learning.  After participating in a highly focused professional development, which concentrated on motivating peers and addressing setbacks, she continues to collaborate with Learning Leaders across the district on the implementation of the Professional Learning Community (PLC) process, successes, and strategies for improvement.


At West High, as with the district, PLCs have created a much-needed change in the language to discuss students. “All students are ‘our’ students, and all teachers must be held accountable for ‘our’ students,” Lane said. “This shift in language is helping to facilitate a culture of continued learning at West High School.”


As a Learning Leader, PLC Leader for junior English, and grade level school leader, Lane has had “the unique opportunity to engage in a practice that I believe will change the culture of our school and directly impact our students.”


She noted the positive impact on her own classroom. “I have had the opportunity to see this affecting my classroom in a positive way,” she said. “As I focus not only on my teaching or myself but always on student learning, students will increase their skills in reading, writing, and communicating as a result.”


As an educator focused on student learning, Lane knows using multiple strategies is the most effective way to reach all students and student engagement is crucial to learning.  “Accountable talk requires students to actively engage with the text through Close Reading strategies in order to be prepared for class discussions,” she said. “Through multiple readings and analyses, students are prepared to apply the text to a variety of situations and to participate in quality class discussions.”


She added, “Accountable Talk emphasizes student thinking and the organization of those thoughts and allows students to further develop their own ideas. While listening actively to the contributions of others, they also learn to respectfully challenge the viewpoints of classmates.


“Clearly, a classroom environment of respect, student accountability or learning, and rigorous thinking must be established,” Lane said. “When an environment such as this has been created in the classroom, students will engage with each other, the teacher, and in the learning process.”


During the time Mrs. Lane has been English Department Chairperson, West English Department has received awards for Most Growth and Highest Achievement in English and has received multiple Golden Pen Awards for TCAP Writing. Additionally, her teacher leadership has contributed to the growth of approximately 80 West High students who received the GRIT Award for ACT improvement in 201.


 Carol Rouse

East High


Carol Rouse, who teaches Visual Art I and Art III at East High, is her school’s Teacher of the Year. All but three years of her 24-year teaching tenure has been spent at East High.  She holds a BA from ETSU and a master’s of Curriculum and Instruction from UT.


Rouse believes art can open minds and plant seeds for bigger dreams for every student. “(Art) will give them a unique voice via their artwork, providing them with greater self-esteem, which is essential to promote grown in academics,” she said.


“I wish to be the teacher who awakens joy in creative expression and knowledge, recognizing the unique talents and skills of students by responding to their different learning styles, by acknowledging their cultural and economic differences, and by adapting instruction to their individual needs,” Rouse said of her profession.


“However, the visual-thinking strategy allows me to build relationships, inspire creativity, and promote critical thinking with students.” 


She uses Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” as a lesson to demonstrate how the visual thinking strategy promotes student engagement throughout the learning process.


“I want each of my students to understand that art connects to other disciplines,” Rouse said.


Outside her classroom, Rouse founded the Young Artist Workshop, an after-school art program where six-12-year-olds can express their imagination through art.  She partners with such groups as the Tennessee Arts Commission’s “Art Building Communities,”  Morristown Task Force on Diversity, Girls Inc.,  and the GFWC Ladies Reading Circle to fund this project, which includes paying for supplies, transportation, and fees for visiting professional artists.


Rouse’s extensive leadership resume includes Team Builder for Fine Arts and World Languages, Recycle Program coordinator, Student Council Food Pantry coordinator, Canes Care Closet advisor, Visual Art inservice leader, ELL Summer Program leader, educational development for Holocaust lessons, Thoughtful Classroom team leader, mentor teacher, cafeteria nutritional advisor.


Chosen for Rose Center Prater Hall Art Exhibit, she also received the MTFD Martin Luther King Innovation award, and the State Representative People’s Choice Award. She also is a first place winner in the Great Smoky Mountain de Vinci Arts and Science Competition.  Rouse serves on the Rose Center Advisory Board.