While COVID-19 may have shortened the physical school year, it did not dampen the hearts and souls of the amazing Blount County and Oneonta City schools’ teachers. As we continue to highlight the 2020 Chamber award winners, this week we focus on five deserving teachers who do an exceptional job helping students prepare for the future.
Blount County Schools
Lauren Durrett – Hayden Elementary
As a 10-year veteran teacher, Lauren Durrett possesses many professional qualities. Some given include “determined, creative, growth mindset, supportive of colleagues, and dedicated to student academic growth.” Those qualities, along with personal qualities such as “caring, compassionate, and thoughtful,” made her the ideal candidate for Blount County’s Elementary Teacher of the Year according to Shawn Marsh, her principal.
Specializing in reading instruction, Durrett has been teaching third grade at Hayden Elementary since August 2015. She came to Hayden Elementary after five years in Jefferson County at Pleasant Grove Elementary and Jefferson Middle. Durrett is certified in early childhood education and elementary education with a bachelor of science from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Marsh said, “Mrs. Durrett is everything one would hope to have in a teacher. She nurtures her students with love and adoration while encouraging each of them to strive for excellence with their learning. She captures the attention of her students and engages them in learning by developing creative thematic units that often include classroom transformation. She is a leader in our school and community, and she leads in a most reverent manner. Mrs. Durrett is truly deserving of this recognition.”
Lynne Sargent – Locust Fork High
With certification in English language arts, Lynne Sargent has been teaching English to 10th through 12th graders at Locust Fork High School since August 2016. She also spent 15 years as a teacher at Pinson Valley High School in Jefferson County.
Sargent is a National Certified Board Teacher who obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of North Carolina at Wilmington and her master of arts degree from The University of West Alabama. And, she is most deserving of being selected as the Blount County High School Teacher of the Year.
While Locust Fork principal Thomas Smitherman admitted to possibly being in the doghouse for sending this picture, he said, “This photo says everything you need to know about Mrs. Lynne Sargent. She is the epitome of what people would think of in an amazing English teacher!
“She is nerdy and dorky, and she makes both of those traits cool! More importantly, Lynne is a great person who challenges our students to think outside the box and go deeper with a topic more than they ever thought they could! Our students love her because they know she loves them back!”
Oneonta City Schools
Julie Birgenheier – Oneonta Elementary
Principal Julie Talton had this to say about Oneonta’s Elementary Teacher of the Year. “Julie Birgenheier has been an outstanding addition at Oneonta Elementary School for the past six years. She has taught kindergarten during that time, and she has one of those personalities that brightens the day of her students and her colleagues. Julie will be relocating to another state at the end of this school year, and she will be greatly missed.”
Nicholas Riley – Oneonta Middle School
Teaching seventh grade science and serving as a football and baseball coach, Riley has been with Oneonta City Schools for four years. Oneonta Middle School principal Leslie Russell said this of Russell after he was named as the Oneonta Middle School Teacher of the Year:
“What is most impressive about Coach Riley is the heart that he has for his students. He is very attentive to their daily behaviors and is always one of the first to let me know if he feels something is wrong with a student.
“Coach Riley is constantly looking for ways to grow as an educator. His classroom is engaging, and he holds high standards for student learning. I am so proud that we have someone like Coach Riley who genuinely cares about our students.”
Susan Mason – Oneonta High School
For 25 years Susan Mason has been teaching with Oneonta City Schools. With a specific love of teaching ninth grade English, Mason has taught English to ninth through 12th graders while at the high school.
Oneonta High School principal Joe Whited is proud to have Mason as a teacher under his leadership of the school. He said, “Mason’s work ethic and commitment to excellence is obvious with everything she does. Mason has the natural ability to maximize each student’s potential, and the honor of being named OHS Teacher of the Year is truly well deserved.”