Montgomery, Ala. — It is down to the final four candidates in the running for the 2013-2014 Alabama Teacher of the Year. The finalists are:
• Tracy Pruitt, Montana Street Academic Magnet School, Dothan City, District II
• Kathy Perkins, Verner Elementary School, Tuscaloosa City, District VII
• Jeff S. Johnson, Hoover High School, Hoover City, District III
• Dr. Alison Grizzle, P.D. Jackson Olin High School, Birmingham City, District IV
State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice said the final four candidates for the Alabama Teacher of the Year have been chosen from an extensive field of educational leaders throughout the state who have given more than just their time and attention.
“The final four are educators who have given all their energy and expertise to help to prepare students for the world,” Bice said.
The next step for the final four is an extensive interview with the state judging committee. The Teacher of the Year winner will be revealed at a ceremony hosted by the Alabama State Department of Education on Wednesday, May 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the RSA Plaza Terrace.
Alabama’s Teacher of the Year spends the majority of the school year serving as the spokesperson for education and the teaching profession as well as presenting workshops to various groups. Additionally, Alabama’s representative is a candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Award.
Tracy Pruitt, Montana Street Academic Magnet School, Dothan City, District II
“My most basic belief drives me every single day. All students can learn. The truth is that they all do learn, but how do you teach students on so many levels with so many diverse backgrounds in one classroom? You work hard and never give up on any child.”
Pruitt, who comes from a family of educators, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Troy University and has taught in Dothan for the past 23 years in various positions. She is a member of several professional teaching organizations, has served on many education committees and is an active volunteer in her community. Two of her greatest accomplishments are receiving National Board Certification and knowing that her daughter wants to carry on the family tradition and become an educator. She is passionate about getting parents involved in their child’s education and teaching literacy and math. She enjoys integrating technology into the curriculum because while “good-old-fashioned teaching is essential,” she believes technology “makes teaching so much better.”
Kathy Perkins, Verner Elementary School, Tuscaloosa City, District VII
“Seeing students’ faces light up when they make the connection between existing knowledge and new material is truly like seeing a light bulb turn on. Knowing that I am the reason for a connection, either through modeling or by ensuring students have the proper environment to forge connections for themselves, is a great reward that motivates and inspires me to teach.”
Perkins cites receiving National Board Certification and earning an Education Specialist degree in Special Education/Gifted from The University of Alabama among the highlights of her career. She has taught in the Tuscaloosa City School System since 1992 and was a nominee for the Jacksonsville State Teacher Hall of Fame in 2012. She collaborates with teachers at her school and across the system to improve teaching, increase communication and provide special experiences for students. She is passionate about teaching because she believes education is essential for developing responsible citizens who respect one another, work together and look for new ways to solve problems.
Jeff S. Johnson, Hoover High School, Hoover City, District III
“I became a teacher because I believed I could intellectually stimulate those students who are underserved and underrepresented and engage them in a rigorous academic process that will allow them to choose a different path in life, much like myself.”
Johnson is the head of the science department at Hoover High School where he has taught since 1998. The National Board Certified teacher believes he was predestined to become an educator, crediting his high school and college instructors with steering him in the right direction and shaping him into the person he is today. His teaching philosophy focuses on three core beliefs: To be successful, teachers must create positive student-teacher relationships; students want to be successful learners, but teachers must meet students where they are physically and academically; and teachers must be passionate about teaching and their subject matter.
Dr. Alison Grizzle, P.D. Jackson Olin High School, Birmingham City, District IV
“I have yet to leave school saying, ‘Today all of my students’ lives were enriched because they had me as a teacher.’ Every day that I leave school, I know that I can always change something to engage more students and impact their learning more effectively.”
After graduating from Denison University with degrees in mathematics and English, Grizzle decided not to pursue a career as a financial analyst and followed her heart by entering the world of education. She has taught math in Birmingham City Schools since 1999 and chose to teach in high-needs schools because she believes urban districts often have more difficulty attaining and retaining good teachers. She is a National Board Certified teacher who earned her doctorate degree at Walden University. Her greatest rewards come at the end of the school year when students receive their graduation exam results. “My students come running and screaming with hugs and tears and are ecstatic to see the word ‘pass’ by mathematics. It is that day I see the fruits of my labor.”