Despite war and tragedy, two Blount County teachers persevered. This year, both received honors for their courage.
Shannon Bridges, who teaches environmental science, anatomy, and physiology at Cleveland High School, was named the Alabama High School Science Teacher of the Year by the Alabama Science Teacher Association.
She is a multi-club leader including the Student Government Association, EnviroBowl Team, and Girls Engaged in Math and Science group. But with all of her involvement, what she did on March 1, 2007, sets her apart.
Before coming to Cleveland, Bridges taught at Enterprise High School. She was there when an EF4 tornado tore through the school, killing eight children. Bridges, who was five months pregnant at the time, laid across her students while the school was being destroyed.
The students she protected sustained only minor injuries while Bridges suffered two collapsed lungs, seven broken ribs, a concussion, liver damage, and spinal fragments dislodged in her back.
“Even though I have suffered from these injuries, I would have made the same decision to protect my students,” Bridges says. “The community called me a hero, but I was just doing my job.”
Bridges has also been named 2011 Cleveland High School Teacher of the Year and the 2015 representative of Blount County for the Jacksonville State Hall of Fame.
Sgt John Fallin
It’s not every day you get to mingle with the president. Unless you work in the U.S. Army assigned to the White House Communications Agency, which is exactly what Oneonta Middle School English teacher John Fallin did.
From 1989 until 1994, during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, Fallin, of Cleveland, served under presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He made sure both Commanders-in-Chief had constant communication available.
“We would provide communication to the President, vice president, their staffs, and the secret service,” Fallin explains. “If he had to travel, we would go a week ahead and set up a phone system that could work just as well as the one he used at the White House and have the same communication abilities.”
These actions took Fallin across the globe, including combat zones such as Saudi Arabia.
Fallin was presented with the VFW Teacher of the Year for District 2 (North Alabama) for his exemplary work in the classroom as well as his background in serving his country.
He was nominated through the VFW Guntersville Post.