By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

“I want you to think for a moment of a teacher—because everyone has a teacher in your life that really made you feel as though you were the most important person in the class, the most important person in the world,” Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said to school board members, county commissioners, principals and finally, the teachers who were being honored at the first annual Teacher of the Year banquet on Tuesday May 2.

“And I’m going to tell you, for me, that teacher is Mr. Tom Ward back in Nashville. He was my sixth-grade social studies teacher and he made me feel as if I was the most important student in his class. The magical thing about Mr. Ward was he made every kid feel as though they were the most important person in the class.

“He did not know the level of impact he had on me back in the sixth grade. But you must know that every face in front of you every single day in that classroom, some of those boys and girls feel that exact way about you. You are their favorite teacher. You are dear to them.”

It was all about honoring these educators at the awards dinner at Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge’s Grace Meadow Farm in Jonesborough for the inaugural event. Though system level teachers of the year are traditionally recognized in the school district, the director of schools was looking to expand a “congratulations” to other teachers who were chosen by their peers throughout the system as well.

“In the past what we’ve done is just the district-level winners were recognized at a school board meeting and they are offered a monetary contribution,” Halliburton said.

“But I wanted a way to actually honor every teacher of the year from every school in Washington County and say that you’re all important to us. I wish we could do this for every teacher in Washington County.”

Ridgeview third grade teacher Alana Street, Lamar School eighth grade teacher Stephanie Gouge and Daniel Boone High School algebra teacher Cody Dishner were honored as the three system level teachers of the year while 19 other Washington County teachers were also recognized as the building-level teachers of the year.

The event also provided members of the community such as sponsors, school board members, county commissioners and both Mayor Eldridge and Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe the opportunity to recognize the role these teachers hold and the impact they have on the community.

“For your results, for what you’re accomplishing in the lives of our kids, I just want to say thank you.” Eldridge said.

“Because at the end of the day, this is what it’s about. You know, we see the fruit of your labor everyday in this community.

“There’s a lot of kids that come through the Washington County School System that today are parents in this community, they’re employees in this community, they’re employers in this community—some people who make a difference here everyday. What you all are doing is preparing these kids. And obviously you’re doing very, very well.”

Some, like Eldridge, who earlier described how business-minded he can be in regards to examining results in many aspects of his life, described the importance of those who make the school system work.

But for those such as school board member Clarence Mabe, who also spoke during the ceremony, the impact a teacher can have on a student is just another lasting significance of an educator.

“Henry Adams said, ‘A teacher affects eternity and can never tell when their influences stop.’ I can attest to this personally,” Mabe said. “When I was a student in high school, I was running for vice president of the student body. It was a tremendous honor for me.

“However, when it was brought to my attention that I had to give a speech, that was difficult. It was so difficult for me because you see, I stutter. But, because of the encouragement of a teacher, Mrs. Kirby, she gave me the courage, the strength to follow through.

“Likewise, another teacher, Mr. Coleman, had such an impact on my life that I often would write his name with my fingers—‘Mr. Coleman.’ During trying times, it helped me to overcome adversity. Occasionally, I still write his name till this day for the same reason. So does a teacher affect eternity? You bet. You can believe they do.”