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MC teachers of the year awarded

Posted on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 at 1:18 pm

LACIE SILVA – Editor

Marion County’s Board of Education gathered with teachers and administrative staff on November 30 for a banquet dinner to award exceptional teachers who have demonstrated outstanding dedication, compassion, and hard work, nominated for their exceptional contributions to their students and schools.

Dr. Mark Griffith, Director of Marion County Schools, opened the event welcoming all and stated, “It’s teachers like you all that helps us to make sure that we push forward and continue to educate our kids.”

Since 1998, Marion County Schools proudly recognize teachers that go above and beyond for their school and students. The program brochure congratulated all past winners and present ones and closed with the motto “Teaching is a work of heart!” Dr. Griffith further reiterated this sentiment to the attendees by thanking all present on behalf of the board and himself for their hard work and dedication in the education of all their students. Secondly, he conveyed his profound gratitude and expressed his full support for the spouses of educators, who, in turn, support the students and schools through their partners. “We know that it’s not an easy job out there, and you all have to deal with it after hours,” Griffith said.

He also thanked the sponsor of the banquet dinner, Sequatchie Valley Electric Coop, as Dr. Griffith stated never fails to support the educators of the county.

Principal Teena Casseday of Whitwell High School (WHS) introduced Shelley Castle, Geometry teacher and a 1999 graduate of WHS. Castle, who began her teaching career at Whitwell Elementary (WES) in 2004, transitioned to WHS in 2010. Describing Castle as a “very structured ‘list’ person,” Casseday highlighted Castle’s notable achievements, including the revitalization of the theatre program, the painting of the auditorium, fundraising for a new curtain, and her role as the coach of the fishing team. Married to Johnathan Castle with two sons, Castle was commended for her multifaceted contributions, praised for her dedication to students, and recognized for balancing her roles as a teacher, wife, and mother.

Next up was David Phillips introduced by Principal Paige Hill of South Pittsburg High (SPH). With 22 years of teaching experience, 16 of them at SPH, Phillips instructs 8th Grade History, High School Economics, and High School U.S. Government. He is married to Christy Mack, and they have three children. Phillips was described by Hill as “invaluable at our school.”

Dr. Larry Ziegler proudly presented Paige Long as Marion County High School Teacher of the Year. Employing 24 years of teaching experience, 20 of which at the middle school level, Long teaches Physical Science, Environmental Science, and Career Exploration. Dr. Ziegler commended her exceptional work, especially in aiding freshmen with their transition to high school. He highlighted her volunteer spirit, running regular rallies and actively mentoring new teachers. According to Dr. Ziegler, Long’s dedication ensures the success of young teachers, guaranteeing the well-being of all students under her care. In his words, “I can’t say enough positive things about Ms. Paige.”

Dr. Heath Thacker, Principal of Jasper Middle School, introduced Candace Seagroves, the seventh-grade math teacher. Known for her distinctive style, she is affectionately described as always wearing Crocs, perfectly matching her outfits, like the lilac dress she wore at the dinner, and her ninja skills in sneaking up on people. In addition to teaching, Seagroves takes on the challenging responsibility of coordinating and managing the club’s overnight field trip, a demanding task with a considerable number of students. Furthermore, she coaches volleyball. Above all, her passion for the students and her advocacy on their behalf were highlighted as her standout qualities. “We would be lost without her,” said Dr. Thacker.

Dr. Veronica Horton, principal of Monteagle Elementary (MES), introduced Mika Harris, the K-8 Exceptional Education Lead Teacher. Harris holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education Modified K-8 since 1994, a Master’s Degree in Beginning Administrator K-12 since 1998, and a Degree in Elementary Education K-6 from 2006. With an impressive 29 years of teaching experience, she has worked in various schools with different grade levels. Harris has been an integral part of MES for 17 years, serving in roles ranging from a first grade teacher to a special education teacher. Married to Jimmy Harris, she has three children and four grandchildren. Currently, Harris serves as a special education teacher and is involved in multiple leadership teams, including AED budget, emergency operation, and literacy. Dr. Horton emphasized Harris’s invaluable contributions to the school and community, highlighting her role as a tutor, summer camp coordinator, and teacher. Harris’s commitment to molding students into productive citizens aligns with her belief in education as the key. Notably, she has received awards such as Google’s All-American Teacher, and Dr. Horton concluded by stating, “She is an incredible leader of our community.”

Introduced by Principal Nicole Jones of Jasper Elementary (JES), Sarah Jones brings extensive teaching experience since 1992, spanning multiple grade levels from kindergarten to eighth grade and across various educational systems. Currently teaching second grade at JES, she is married to Chris Jones, with two daughters. Having taught in different locations, including Martin, TN, and Tuscaloosa, Sarah’s dedication to teaching shines through, even during frequent travels. Principal Jones and Sarah’s teaching partner, Ms. Thompson, both lauded her exceptional commitment to students, acknowledging her deep understanding of their strengths and struggles. “She is one of the most dedicated people I have ever worked with. She’s always in it for the kids.” Principal Jones stated as a quote from Ms. Thompson. Known for her unwavering support and cheerful demeanor, Sarah is an outstanding educator who actively volunteers at events, creating a track record of success with her students.

Principal Candy Powers introduced Haven Moss from South Pittsburg Elementary (SPE), who embarked on her teaching journey in 2013. Having spent six years in kindergarten, Moss’s passion for math led her to transition to fourth grade, where she has thrived for the past four years. Engaged in various committees, including the RTI Swing Committee for Behaviors, she actively contributes to her school’s initiatives. Not only an exceptional teacher but also a mentor, Moss willingly volunteers for awards and social committee activities. Beyond the classroom, she extends her involvement to the community by co-chairing corporate festivals. Moss stands out as a dedicated educator with a creative touch, contributing significantly to both her school and the local community.

In a gesture of recognition and appreciation, the district winners will be awarded a commendable sum of $250, while the overall winners will receive an even more substantial reward of $350. Furthermore, all winners and nominees will be presented with a plaque as a testament to their outstanding contributions. Dr. Griffith enthusiastically revealed the esteemed winners in each category: Ms. Haven Moss from SPE secured the overall victory for elementary schools, Ms. Mika Harris from MES claimed the top spot for middle schools, and Ms. Shelley Castle from WHS emerged as the overall winner for high schools.

The Marion Tribune – December 7, 2023