Phillips named Grayson's teacher of the year

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Teachers, families, friends and administration joined together May 7 to honor Amy Phillips as Grayson County's second division-wide teacher of the year.

“Today we are not only here to honor single individuals, but also to recognize an entire profession,” said Grayson Schools Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Thomas. “Our teachers make extraordinary contributions to the community and our youth. We owe our teachers our thanks, our praise and our support.”

The list included 10 teachers, from each of the division's schools and the Career and Technical Education Center at the high school.

Phillips, of Providence Elementary, was the overall winner. Other finalists included: Sherry Padgett, Baywood Elementary; Lynn McClary, Bridle Creek Elementary; Melissa Jones, Fairview Elementary; Kris Cannaday, Fries Middle School; Deborah Greif, Grayson County High School; Jason Spurlin, Grayson County CATE; Amanda Grubb, Independence Elementary; Cathy Sumner, Independence Middle and Vicki Medlin, Mount Rogers Combined.

“The administration is proud of all our teachers, and particularly those here today,” said Director of Instruction and Assessment Stephen Cornett.

Cornett noted that this year's winner would receive more than $2,000 in cash and gifts as a result of donations.

Phillips described her philosophy: “When I walk into my first grade classroom, my whole world changes. It is such an amazing and uplifting feeling to be loved and admired by my little students. I believe I have the greatest, most rewarding job that anyone could have.”

Phillips went on to say that she welcomes the “huge responsibility” of instilling in each child love and excitement for learning, as well as a sense of trust and acceptance.

“I believe in having fun and making learning exciting for my students,” she said. “Smiling and laughter are always part of my lessons.”

Phillips' said she believes every teacher brings something special and unique to their individual classroom and that her greatest quality as a teacher is her loving and patient nature.

“I am the kind of teacher you will find sitting in the little chairs alongside my students as they work or read,” she said. “I am the kind of teacher that fixes ponytails and wipes little noses. I am the kind of teacher who gladly gives and accepts hugs.”

Phillips believes in being kind to all students and never lets her own personal frustration interfere with the way she treats them.

“If we could all see the world through the eyes of a 6 year old, life would be so less complicated,” she said.

Phillips added that the rewards of teaching are endless.

“Hearing a child read fluently for the first time, watching a child use techniques I have taught them to add and subtract independently, writing a sentence correctly even though words are misspelled, are the priceless rewards of knowing I have successfully reached a child,” she continued. “It is wonderful to watch as my students choose to read in their free time. I love the notes on their papers — 'I luv you. Rite bak.' It just doesn't get any better than that!”

While Phillips knew many other career paths could have earned her a lot more money, she knows she has been blessed with riches greater than material wealth. “There are many things I would do differently in my life given the opportunity, but teaching at Providence Elementary in Grayson County is definitely not one of them!”

The selection process was open to teachers, school librarians, technology teachers, guidance counselors, reading coaches and all itinerant instructors.

Criteria were aligned with the Virginia Teacher of the Year Program and included: concern for individual students and ability to inspire learning; ability and willingness to work cooperatively with fellow professionals; willingness to devote time and energy to activities that result in improved instruction; ability to work effectively with the community; desire to keep up with education theories and practices; ability and willingness to contribute to education and examples of innovative practices initiated by the nominee.

To qualify, a teacher must have held a current Virginia teaching license, and have plans to continue in active teaching during 2009-10.

Nominations were submitted to the school committee — principal, assistant principal and/or a lead teacher and a parent. The school committee reviewed each nomination and submitted a name to Cornett as the teacher of the year at their school.

Each candidate was then required to complete a portfolio that demonstrated the selection criteria of the Virginia teacher of the year program.

The portfolio included: professional development listings with a list of colleges and universities attended, teaching employment history, a professional biography listing factors that influenced the candidate to become a teacher and their greatest contribution and accomplishments, a philosophy of teaching and a copy of an actual lesson plan.

Each nominee was scored, and the one with the highest number was named the winner.

“Scores were very, very close,” Cornett said prior to the announcement last Thursday.

Phillips is Grayson's second teacher of the year and her picture will hang on a plaque in the central office.