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Unicoi County School System names year’s top teachers

From Staff Reports

The Teacher of the Year program recognizes and honors outstanding teachers in Unicoi County and across Tennessee.

“We applaud teachers who devote their professional lives to enriching the lives of children and who demonstrate exceptional gains in achievement,” Unicoi County Director of Schools John English said. “Congratulations!”

The following is a list of the local educators who received the award.

Leslie Franks – Love Chapel Elementary & District Grades PreK-4 Teacher of the Year

Franks is a third grade teacher at Love Chapel Elementary. She has seven years of experience. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Development from Milligan College in 2010 and her Masters degree from Tusculum College in Curriculum and Instruction in December of 2017.

Frank’s TEAM evaluation overall level of effectiveness places her above expectations in 2017 and significantly above expectations in 2016. She serves as a district math collaborative leader, as well as a cheerleading coach at Unicoi Middle School. She has previously been a coach for Girls on the Run.

Franks begins her approach to student growth and achievement through getting to know her students, their personal likes and dislikes, their interests, their current achievement, as well as their personal desires towards learning. She uses formative assessment information to plan instructional next steps and to ensure all students are progressing appropriately. Franks is intentional to facilitate strategies for students to think about thinking, reflect, organize, and digest what they are being taught. Franks values partnerships with families and strives to communicate regularly regarding student progress and goals. She has played a large role in the development of Love Chapel’s House System and feels it has been instrumental in development of student ownership, community, and teamwork.

Alexa Renfro – Unicoi County Middle School & District Grades 5-9 Teacher of the Year

Renfro earned her Bachelor’s degree in English from Wake Forest University in 2012 and her Masters from Milligan College in  2014. She received the Milligan College Outstanding Portfolio Award, and was also a member of Pi Lambda Theta Education Honor Society. She has been teaching for four years.

Renfro serves as a district teacher leader, on her school leadership team, and as a collaborative facilitator for middle grades. She has re-delivered several state level trainings locally and is a member of the Aspiring Principal Academy Cohort between Unicoi County and Carter County.  Her classroom practices are grounded in student-centered learning and high expectations for all of her students.

Renfro is currently working with one other colleague to establish a mentor program for middle school students. The mentor program will target students who need extra social supports at school, which will, in turn, assist in their home lives. Students interested in being mentors will undergo an application process, including an interview, and a training process to ensure that they are prepared to mentor other students. Each mentee will be paired with a mentor from a higher grade level. Renfro’s TEAM evaluation overall level of effectiveness places her significantly above expectations in 2017 and above expectations in 2016.

Lori Ann Wright – Unicoi County High School & District Grades 9-12 Teacher of the Year

Wright has over 15 years in total teaching experiences, including university adjunct work, with ten years service in public schools. She graduated from East Tennessee State University, with a Bachelor’s degree in 1998 and a Master’s in 2002. She earned her Masters in Education in 2006 from Milligan College. She holds an active endorsement in both Theatre (K-12) and English (7-12). Her leadership positions are many, including serving as a coordinator for the ETSU /UCHS ELA Teacher Collaborative, as a District Level Teacher Leader, a Building Level Teacher Leader, and a Mentor Teacher. She has served as SCORE Tennessee Educator Fellow, and has also served as a Mentor Teacher to Milligan College student teachers. She is the Chair of the Fine Arts Department and Foundering Sponsor of the UCHS Bluegrass Band. She has also served as Vice- President of the Unicoi County Education Association, Coordinator of the Capstone Community Service Program at UCHS, Milligan College External Teacher Education Council, Drama Coach for the UCHS Mock Trial team, and Sponsor of the UCHS Drama Club.

Wright’s awards and recognitions include serving as a speaker for the SCORE Video “Voices of Tennesseans,” a presenter at the ETSU Freshman Composition Workshop, panelist for the SCORE annual Report Release, and SCORE Tennessee Educator Fellow. She has been recognized as 98.5 WTFM Teacher of the Month, and was also the 2012 Teacher of the Year. Lori Ann has been featured in TEACH Magazine with her article “The Wright Approach to Drama”. She is also a community leader. She is the founding Director for Second Story Theatre Troupe, a theatrical consultant for RISE Erwin, a team captain for Relay For Life in Unicoi County, and has held various positions on the Relay for Life Committee.

Wright is also an event committee member for the Tanasi Arts and Heritage Center in Unicoi and cofounder for the Erwin Theatre Restoration Project. Over the last four years the drama student mentor program has grown significantly under her leadership. During the first year of the program, there were two senior student directors and one primary scriptwriter; the class of 2018 will have seven student directed performances and two complete productions written by students. The long-term results of this program are illustrated by the class of 2017. Because student directors/writers need to have experience in all areas of theatre arts, most of the drama students in the senior class were in multiple shows working both as actors and as technical support for productions. The 185 seniors in the class of 2017 included 42 drama students whom have been in multiple stage productions at UCHS – of those 42 students, eight (19 percent) have selected careers in the theatre/performing arts. Of those eight students, five were able to participate (as lead cast members or lead tech) in professional or collegiate stage/film productions as entering college freshman. This illustrates how a challenging student mentor program can create both a stronger classroom experience and encourage individual student growth in a professional manner.

Wright’s TEAM level of effectiveness has been significantly above expectations for two consecutive years and consistently place her above expectations in effectiveness.

Christy Miller – Rock Creek Elementary Teacher of the Year

Miller earned her Bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences from East Tennessee State University in 2008, a Masters in Education degree in Secondary Education in 2009, and a Masters of Arts degree in School Counseling in 2010. She serves as both school counselor and teaches guidance classes at Rock Creek Elementary School.

Miller Christy has seven years of experience. She serves on the social committee at Rock Creek and has coached Girls on the Run since 2011. Miller is the 504 Coordinator at Rock Creek and also serves as a Mentor Counselor for Temple Hill. She has presented at the Title 1 Conference previously, and was recognized and awarded with $1,000 for school funds in 2016 by Girls on the Run for most improvement in participation. These funds were used to sponsor a variety of enrichment clubs at Rock Creek.

Miller is a community liaison for the Food Backpack program, the Back to School and Thanksgiving events, the Kiwanis Christmas Trip, and is the Angel Tree Coordinator. She instructs all students at Rock Creek once a week for one hour. This interaction allows her to build a relationship with each student so if there is a need for direct counseling she has already been able to build a bond with them. She credits high levels of growth and learning for all students in many ways but one being through fewer discipline referrals and improved attendance.

Miller leads the cheer/pep club and has noticed an increase in a sense of school community within the group as well as increased friendship and communication skills. Her TEAM evaluation overall level of effectiveness places her significantly above expectations in 2017 and above expectations in 2016.

Tammy Peterson – Temple Hill Teacher of the Year

Peterson earned her Graduated Associates Science Degree from Montreat-Anderson College and her Bachelor of Science Degree from East Tennessee State University. She has nineteen years of experience. She currently is serving as a TVAAS Learning Leader at Temple Hill and has re-delivered both Math and ELA trainings locally.

Peterson was selected as Temple Hill Teacher of the Year in 2007 and 2008 and has also served as TEA Association representative for multiple years. She has coached in the Clover Bowl and placed first place on numerous occasions, has been the recipient of the Nuclear Fuel Award for reading score gains and was the recipient of Exemplary Service from Appalachian Education Opportunity Center TRIO Program.

Peterson has served as a 4-H Leader, and has volunteered for Good Samaritan, Red Cross, United Way, St. Jude’s Children Hospital, Blue Cross Walking Works Program, Unicoi County Care and Share, Relay for Life and several local science events. She is especially proud that all student in her 2012-13 class were 100 percent proficient or advanced in all TCAP tests and feels building relationships, self-esteem, and self-worth all play a role in student achievement. She feels “success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and love of what you are doing or learning to do.” Peterson’s TEAM evaluation overall level of effectiveness places her above expectations in 2017.

Whitney Evely

Unicoi Elementary Teacher of the Year

Evely is a fifth grade teacher at Unicoi Elementary. She is currently teaching Science and Social Studies, but has also taught English Language Arts and math, as well as teaching in multiple grade levels from second through fifth grade in both Johnson City and Unicoi County schools. She has ten years of experience and received her Bachelor’s degree from East Tennessee State University in 2010 as well as her Masters in Reading in 2011.

Evely serves as an RTI-B2 Committee Member, Science Content Leader, and a facilitator of science standards training for grades 3-5. She also serves on the Science Textbook Committee. In 2016, 73 percent of her students were proficient in science. Her TEAM evaluation overall level of effectiveness places her above expectations.

Evely is service minded. She organized a community service outreach project in response to the fires in Gatlinburg in December 2016. Students collected over 1,200 items. Fifth graders decorated and placed boxes around the school to collect the donations school wide.