Oak Ridge Schools officials announced their Teachers of the Year, along with the selections for District-wide Teacher Assistant and Principal of the Year.

The Teacher of the Year program recognizes outstanding teachers in Tennessee. Tennessee Department of Education staff applaud teachers who care about children, who dedicate their professional lives to enriching the lives of Tennessee students, and who demonstrate exceptional gains in student achievement, according to a press release from the Tennessee Department of Education. city ​​school system.

Oak Ridge seeks teacher candidates at each school in the district. These district-level winners were nominated by their peers for the 2022-2023 awards cycle, the statement said. Written in their own words and excerpted from their full applications, the stories below “provide a window into each other’s authenticity and commitment to students.”

Oak Ridge Schools PreK-4 Teacher of the Year: Gary Grimac (Willow Brook Elementary School)

“I remember, when I first came to Oak Ridge Schools and wrote my biography on the school’s webpage. I had a parent say to me, ‘I have read your biography. “I guess I’m a bit ‘old fashioned’. I understand that education changes; people change. With that in mind, I had to change too. I quickly try to keep up with young teachers and the technological movement. I certainly know this is the future. However, I don’t think we should be “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” – abandoning older practices. As a result, I dedicated myself to taking five minutes from my math block about once a week to give a 5-minute, 100-fact Multiplication test. I believe it is important to develop students’ memory,” said Gary Grimac.

“School culture is the most important dynamic in any school or business. Several years ago at Willow Brook, we were asked to work as a team to address an area where we thought we could make a change. saw student discipline as the problem. Teachers were constantly putting out the fires of disruptive and unacademic behavior. It wasn’t that Willow Brook wasn’t a great school or that the teachers weren’t working hard; it was the The fact that we didn’t have a collective culture that allowed for all the good in our students, our staff and our practices needs to be accentuated.After many years, the culture is finally changing.

“We continue to refine PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Support) as it evolves at the WB. It evolves so that we can more quickly streamline students in need of intervention. I think the rapid response that we see has changed the culture of our school significantly.. Students are rewarded for good behavior and they have learned that bad choices have consequences.The culture has changed;scholars and the behavior of good citizens are at the center of the concerns,” Grimac said.

Oak Ridge Schools 5-8 Teacher of the Year: Amy Fuqua (Robertsville Middle School).

Oak Ridge Schools 5-8 Teacher of the Year: Amy Fuqua (Robertsville Middle School)

“As part of the mathematics department, I use the Illustrative Mathematics curriculum. This curriculum provides rigor and incorporates research-based teaching routines. While making plans for daily instruction, I focus on the PLC (Professional Learning Communities) question: What do I all want students to know or be able to do?After providing Level 1 instruction each day, students complete a short exit ticket. This short assessment provides me with immediate feedback, and I can then use that feedback to meet with students individually or in small groups to provide direct instruction or correct any misconceptions,” said Amy Fuqua.

“With my math partner PLC, I then create a common formative assessment and administer the assessment after approximately five to eight days of instruction. After administering the assessment, my collaborative team reviews the data and focuses on guiding question: how are we going to respond if the students are not competent? At this point, I make the choice to offer a retraining opportunity or to recommend students for tutoring. “

“When it comes to connecting students to the real world in the math classroom, I’m fortunate that our program makes tremendous connections outside of the classroom. In each unit of study, I give examples to students of how the skill can benefit them outside of school. By making these connections, I see my students focusing more on the importance of math skills,” Fuqua said.

Oak Ridge Schools 9-12 Teacher of the Year: Julie Golden (Oak Ridge High School).

Oak Ridge Schools 9-12 Teacher of the Year: Julie Golden (Oak Ridge High School)

“The World Language Classroom is the perfect setting for differentiated instruction. I use a variety of teaching methods to teach each language function. When teaching a new grammatical concept, I can choose a popular and authentic song in the target language that repeats the new sentence the students are learning and engages the students’ interest. I can also incorporate a kinesthetic activity where the students have a word or letter in a sentence and they have to collaborate to physically form the sentence target, while I monitor and give feedback Students can be Students who need more time can practice at a more basic level, while those who have mastered the main concepts can now add more detail to their Overall, students will be challenged to practice the same language concept in different ways before being formal. fully assessed. es, students feel confident in their ability to use the language on this learning target,” said Julie Golden.

“Often I try to create a physical classroom environment that matches the content we are learning. During the shopping unit, I create a store in the classroom and the students practice bartering and asking for items in Spanish while they shop. travel, as many of my students have never flown, I bring the airport into my classroom. students chat with airline employees when they check in for their flights, with TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents when passing security checks, and with customs agents at their destination.When studying art, our hallways become a museum, where students are encouraged to review and discuss the work.These scenarios bring learning to life and allow students to see opportunities in which they can use classroom experiences and learn and apply them to real life opportunities. girls outside of the classroom,” Golden said.

Oak Ridge Schools Teacher Assistant of the Year: Lauren Van Fleet (Jefferson Middle School).

Oak Ridge Schools Teacher Assistant of the Year: Lauren Van Fleet (Jefferson Middle School)

“As a teaching assistant, I have the privilege of serving in the classrooms of my fellow teachers. From my observations, I have learned best practices for effective teaching. I am a master’s candidate in initial teacher’s license at Lincoln Memorial University I developed and taught a lesson plan based on a 7th grade life science standard I created a puzzle activity to achieve my goal of course and then in teaching groups, students worked together to develop and build a cellular model,” said Lauren Van Fleet.

“Students were able to meet the learning objective of the lesson. Students at all learning levels (including those with IEPs (individualized education programs)/504 and students on a proficiency scale of 3 or 4) said the lesson was fun and engaging Overall, this puzzle review activity improved students’ confidence in their understanding of this standard and objective and was an effective review of cell organelles because it engaged a variety of learning styles and allowed students to teach each other, contributing to deeper learning for all students, Fleet said.

Oak Ridge Schools Principal of the Year: Dr. Garfield Adams (Oak Ridge High School).

Oak Ridge Schools Principal of the Year: Garfield Adams (Oak Ridge High School)

“I am thrilled and blessed to return to my hometown of Oak Ridge. Oak Ridge is near and dear to my heart. It is an honor and a privilege to serve at my alma mater, Oak Ridge High School. such exceptional faculty and staff has been a real joy and we are also extremely fortunate to live and work in an amazing community with amazing students,” said Garfield Adams.

“Growing up in Oak Ridge was an experience I wish all kids could have. I spent many hours on the basketball court and many late afternoons on the football and baseball field. Although my classes were rigorous, I was more than prepared for my college journey. The friends I made at Robertsville Middle School and Oak Ridge High School, lasted more than three decades. Although my parents and brothers moved over the years, they found their home in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. My wife and I It’s where we met, married and raised our family in a wonderful community. There’s something about this place that is truly unique and special.”

“I relish the idea of ​​watching my children grow up in Oak Ridge and living the life I once lived. I also relish the idea of ​​all of our children experiencing the unique offerings Oak Ridge schools have to offer and the commitment our community has invested in our youth and families over the years. I am thrilled to give back to my community, as are the opportunities that have been given to me,” said Adams.