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Board of Education honors teachers

Three Unicoi County educators, from left, Leslie Franks, Alexa Renfro and Lori Ann Wright, were chosen as the Teachers of the Year for their respective grade levels. All three were recognized by the Unicoi County Board of Education last week. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Kendal Groner

The hard work and dedication of three Unicoi County educators was recognized with system teachers of the year awards during the Tuesday, March 20, meeting of the Unicoi County Board of Education.

Awards were presented to Leslie Franks of Love Chapel Elementary School, Alexa Renfro of Unicoi County Middle School, and Lori Ann Wright of Unicoi County High School.

“These folks are changing lives every single day,” said John English, director of schools. “I couldn’t be more proud.”

Leslie Franks has seven years of teaching experience, and is currently a district math collaborative leader, a cheerleading coach at the middle school, and has played a large role in developing the house system at Unicoi County Middle School.

The house system has proven to foster personal and community development. Franks uses formative assessment information to plan structural next steps and to ensure all students are progressing appropriately.

“Goal setting is a big deal for Mrs. Franks … she really pushes the students to go further than they think they can,” English said.

Alexa Renfro has four years of teaching experience and serves as the district level teacher leader on her school leadership team. She is a collaborative facilitator for middle grades and a member of the aspiring principal academy cohort between Unicoi County and Carter County. She is currently working to establish a mentorship program in the middle school to combat absenteeism, establish social supports, and aid academic growth.

“She has really made a big impact in a short amount of time,” said English.

Lori Ann Wright has accumulated 15 years of experience as an educator and is a SCORE TN teacher educator fellow and a mentor teacher to Milligan College. She is the chair of the Fine Arts Department and founding sponsor for the UCHS bluegrass band. She served as vice president of the Unicoi County Education External Teacher Education Council and fostered the development of the mock trial team at the high school. She was the recipient of the 2012 teacher of the year award and has been featured in Teach Magazine.

“The impact you have made … it continues way beyond when the students leave the classroom,” English said.


The school board also recognized Alexis Harvey, recipient of the highly esteemed Niswonger scholarship, and the UCHS Bluegrass Band for their recent achievements.

Some of Harvey’s achievements include serving as section leader for the UCHS marching band, homeroom representative, a member of the National Honor Society, the book club, and the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) club. She is also a member of the track and field team, the Christian Student Union, and volunteered with Operation Christmas Child and Relay For Life. Harvey will be attending Tennessee Technical Institute for Electrical Engineering.

“I’m just very, very excited,” Harvey said. “I am so blessed to have received this. I’m excited to come back. … I love this community and I hope to continue representing Erwin well.”

The UCHS Bluegrass Band was able to attend the Danny Stewart Bluegrass Cruise in January. The band was able to raise $8,000 in less than two and a half months to cover the expenses of the trip.

The band had over 40 performances for the year and has played at the local farmer’s market, Unicoi County Relay For Life, several local venues, and the Feed and Seed in North Carolina.

You can visit the Unicoi County Bluegrass Band Facebook page to see videos of their recent performances.


The Unicoi County Board of Education also unanimously voted to accept a bid in the amount of $196,100 from Morristown roofing to complete the second phase of the roofing project for the high school.