Ten Poplar Bluff teachers honored

Monday, April 5, 2010

Poplar Bluff School District celebrated the "best of the best" at a ceremony Thursday at the Central Office. Building Teacher of the Year awards were presented to one teacher from each of the district's 10 campuses.

"It is very important to celebrate the great teachers we have in our school district," said Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Chris Hon.

The district has many very fine teachers, said Superintendent Ernie Lawson, making these very difficult decisions.


Ron Patterson is a no nonsense math teacher who has a patience that cannot be explained, Poplar Bluff High School Principal Scot Young told attendees.

"The students have said the PBHS Teacher of the Year should be someone who makes a difference in our lives and Ron Patterson has definitely done that," said Young.

Patterson holds students to a high academic standard and challenges students to do their best, senior high math teacher Kristin Crawford wrote in a letter of recommendation.

"Ron has also provided continued support for students who are no longer in his classes," Crawford wrote. "He talks with students about their lives and makes real connections with them as people."

Patterson breaks difficult problems down to understandable steps and never loses his patience or acts frustrated if a student is struggling for whatever reason, parent and colleague Gayla Fritts wrote in a letter to the selection committee.

Students show respect toward Patterson because they are given respect by him, according to senior Trent Hillis.

"I have never seen Mr. Patterson make a student look foolish by a question asked," Hillis wrote, adding later, "Mr. Patterson is a great teacher because he genuinely cares."


From hanging bowling balls from the ceiling to donning a surgeon's costume, eighth grade science teacher Vic Clark will do anything to help his students learn, according to Poplar Bluff Junior High Principal Carla Henderson.

Clark earned his building's Teacher of the Year award for many reasons, according to his colleagues.

"He has a special way of connecting with kids in his class," Henderson said. "His approach to learning and teaching is hands on. ... And he certainly does motivate challenged and at risk students. He helps them find a way to accomplish every task in his class."

Clark is also an assistant football and track coach.

Clark has presented his teaching lessons at state educator conferences and been an invited speaker at the Air Force Academy and Kodak Corporation.

"Vic's dedication to his work and the children in his care has earned him great respect as a teacher with his colleagues and administrators," junior high American history teacher Susan Wilson wrote to committee members.

"He has an excellent work ethic and is willing to do whatever needs to be done to improve our school's atmosphere."

On top of his excellent teaching skills and expertise, Clark is an excellent role model for students, wrote parents Herald and Petra Breitkopf.

"He is a role model for his students - by living a lifestyle which is dominated by the love for his family, his country, respect for others and honesty," the Breitkopfs wrote.

Clark is a teacher who cares, wrote student Madison Miller.

"He's not a teacher that hurries through a lesson and onto the next one just to be done with it," she said. "He is concerned about more than just grades. Mr. Clark wants us to make good grades, but he also wants us to understand the lesson. He goes to great lengths to make sure that we do."


Music teacher Kristy Weaver provides lessons students will carry with them forever, according to parent Melinda Foster Michel.

"Thank you, Ms. Weaver, for stepping out of the box, for reaching needs beyond curriculum, and for providing a musical base of instruction that not only teaches music notes, but facilitates a lifelong learning process," Foster Michel wrote in a letter to district administrators. "Thank you, again, for loving my kids."

Weaver is very involved with her students, often giving up lunches and evenings to work on projects with them, Principal Patty Robertson said, before presenting the 5th & 6th Grade Center Teacher of the Year award.

"She helps (students) shine when they may not shine anywhere else," Robertson explained. "She says, 'Let me give them one shot to be center stage.'"

Weaver is kind and caring, wrote student Elizabeth Caldwell. She always has a good joke or great advice, but also has control of her classes.

"Even though it is school and we do have to learn, it's a lot more fun learning music when Miss Weaver is the teacher," Caldwell said. "I think Miss Weaver deserves to be the Teacher of the Year for all the hard work and time she has put in to make others happy."

Weaver's strongest qualities are love and respect for her craft, wrote reading teacher Lisa Gaines.

"Miss Weaver is clearly and boldly a leader in her curriculum," Gaines said. "She believes in her music program and realizes the importance that it must play in children's development."


Teacher Lori Smith's students absolutely adore her, according to Early Childhood Center Principal Joanne Westbrook.

Westbrook could not present Smith's building Teacher of the Year award Thursday, but her speech was given by Assistant Superintendent Sarah Long.

Smith engages and motivates her 3-year-old students by keeping herself motivated with fresh ideas, Westbrook said.

"Lori is always looking for new and exciting learning activities," she continued.

Smith is credited with designing age-appropriate lessons and utilizing learning centers, technology and manipulatives to introduce topics and checklist skills that correlate with Missouri prekindergarten standards.

She has the ability to make families feel comfortable in sensitive situations and offer support or advice when needed, teacher Nancy Gill wrote to the selection committee.

"Lori has enriched our students' education by initiating presentations from Missouri Department of Conservation and Water Safety," Gill also wrote. "Many of our at-risk students would never have this opportunity if it wasn't for teachers, like Lori, who go above and beyond the routine and expected."

Parent Jennifer Funke wrote she knew the first day she met Smith, her son was in good hands.

"Ms. Lori has a calm but firm personality that I think worked wonders with my rambunctious boy," Funke said.


Reading First coach Sabrina Skaggs is awesome, her students say.

The Eugene Field Elementary Teacher of the Year helps them learn, but also gives rewards for good work, they wrote.

Skaggs' position requires her to relate and connect with her students, something she has done, according to Principal Jennifer Taylor.

The teacher knows the reading level, as well as strengths and weaknesses, of all of Eugene Field's students, Taylor said.

"That is because she is so involved with our kids," Taylor said.

Skaggs has started several programs, including one where third and fourth grade students mentor first and second grade students.

"Anything you ask of her, she is right there to do," Taylor said. "We are so thankful she is part of the staff at Eugene Field."

Skaggs can be counted on to go above and beyond, guidance counselor Esther Luna wrote to the selection committee.

"Her innovations are helping all students regardless of the difficulty they experience," Luna said. "She develops excellent strategies to help our students."


Mark Twain Kindergarten Center Teacher of the Year Pennie Ethridge is at school before 7 a.m. every day, Principal Carl Rosenquist said before presenting the award.

She does this because she wants to provide the best possible education for every student, he said.

"Every child in her class feels like a shinning star," Rosenquist said.

The best reflection comes from the words of her students, he said.

Timothy Trigg wrote Ethridge is "mi frafit techr," while classmate Trey Barbour said, "I (love) Mrs. Ethridge koze she likes bugz and I do to."

Teacher Janice Duckett believes Ethridge emulates everything a parent would desire to see in their child's teacher.

"She is compassionate, kind, patient, firm but loving, and extremely motivating to every child that has the blessing of being a part of her class," Duckett wrote in her recommendation.

Ethridge makes parents feel like they are a team, wrote mother Elizabeth Bliss.

"She is an excellent teacher whose knowledge of reading instruction has encouraged my son to love reading," Bliss said, adding later, "I have no doubt the strong foundation she is building for him today will enable him to have a very successful school career."


Oak Grove Elementary Teacher of the Year Christine Innes is a "good explainer," according to her students.

"She never lets us down and she will not ever let us down," fourth grade student Tyson Cox wrote of his teacher.

Innes makes time for every child, parent Carol Kower said in a letter to the selection committee.

Each day she brings joy and happiness into the student's, teacher's and parents' lives, according to reading coach Andrea Reynolds.

"She cares deeply about each of her students both academically and personally," Reynolds letter reads. "She goes above and beyond to help her students achieve their highest potential and then pushes them to reach higher."

Innes is never too busy to help someone else, Principal Mike Owen said, before presenting her award.

"I have never seen anyone make such a concerted effort to say, 'I am going to be positive and bring everyone up around me,' and then do it," he said.


Karmen (Foster) Carson is an excellent teacher, according to fourth grade student Shelby Ross.

"She knows what's best for us," Ross wrote in recommending Carson for O'Neal Teacher of the Year. "Miss Foster has some qualities no one else has. One of them is she helps us with everything! She never gets tired of having us with her."

Her teacher really deserves the award, Ross said, because she helps students express their feelings and says they are all unique in their own special way.

Carson focuses on finding a way to help every student learn, said Principal Lorenzo Sandlin.

"Our students do bring each and every day a variety of backgrounds and experiences to us," he said.

Carson may have 20 kids in her class, but each of them is equally special and important to her, parent Nikie Medling wrote in support of her son's teacher.

"She has the ability to not only be a great teacher but really touch the life of the children that are lucky enough to get to have her as their teacher," Medling said.

Few of the teachers she has seen in the past 30 years have the personal and professional caliber and accomplishments of Carson, wrote third grade teacher Carol Ebersole.

Carson has both Master and Bachelor's degrees of Science in Education. She is also active in many political and teachers organizations, such as the Southeast Region Teachers Association and the Missouri Republican State Executive Committee.


Lacey McClintock always dreamed of having a career she would enjoy, make a great living at and be good at.

She has that now because of Poplar Bluff Technical Career Center Teacher of the Year Regina Gossett, according to McClintock.

"Mrs. Gossett is an amazing mentor and an outstanding teacher," McClintock wrote to the selection committee. "She has not held back any of her vast knowledge from my classmates or me."

Gossett has been at TCC for four years and previously worked for six years in the print field.

A teacher who helps all students, not just her own, Gossett expects the best from her students, health occupation instructor Carmen Hoggard wrote to the committee.

"I have heard her on many occasions tell her students they could do better and refuse to accept their assignment until they try something different," Hoggard said. "Failure is not an option."

Yet, students feel accepted and comfortable with Gossett, Hoggard said.

"Many times she has been able to assist students who are unable to afford expensive graduation invitations by allowing the students to design and print for each other," Hoggard explained. "I have also known her to bring and donate her own clothing to students who were in need."

Gossett is not only a leader locally, but also statewide through her involvement with professional organization, said Director Jean Winston, in presenting the award.

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