By Talbert Toole
The Lafayette County School Board recognized and awarded “Teacher of the Year” to five deserving teachers along with an “Administrator of the Year” award Monday night during the board’s first 2019 meeting.
Each building within the school district nominated and voted on a teacher the school deemed worthy of the recognition, according to Superintendent Adam Pugh.
The recipients were Sandy Brown, Lafayette Elementary; Stephanie Carter, Lafayette Upper Elementary; Jessi Cook, Lafayette Middle; Hannah Gadd, Lafayette High; Beth Lucas, Oxford-Lafayette School of Applied Technology; Thomas Tillman, Administrator of the Year for Lafayette Upper Elementary.
Tillman said he is humbled by the recognition of being named Administrator of the Year.
“As I look over our great school district I see talented and gifted administrators who serve tirelessly on a daily basis,” Tillman said. “I can’t begin to fathom how I was chosen for this recognition.”
He gave praises to his wife and children along with the other administrators and colleagues in the school district.
“Putting all of this in perspective, I am who I am,” he said. “[I] have what I have because someone believed in me.”
In addition to Gadd being awarded Teacher of the Year for her specific school, she was also honored with the award for the entire district and follows in the footsteps of fellow teacher Whitney Drewery, who currently represents the state as Mississippi’s Teacher of the Year.
The awarded teachers also wrote a one-page paper explaining the significance of this honor that they submitted anonymously, Pugh said. Each paper was then ranked from 1 to 4, 1 being the most outstanding paper.
Gadd garnered three 1’s on her paper, which landed her second award of representing the entire district.
Gadd said she was shocked when she found out the board had awarded her with the honor of representing the district as Teacher of the Year.
“To be named the Lafayette County School District Teacher of the Year is so humbling,” Gadd said. “I’ve been blessed with amazing teachers who invested their hearts and time into me as a student from elementary school through graduate school.”
She also said she has found support from the administrators and colleagues within the Lafayette School District.
“My students are my pride and joy,” Gadd said. “They never say no to my crazy ideas, and they constantly amaze me with their positivity and love for learning.”
Drewery, who is the first teacher from LCSD to be awarded the state honor, is currently in the midst of competing for the recognition of National Teacher of the Year. She will begin her journey in February traveling the country to represent Mississippi. She begins in California and will end at the National Football Championship this time next year. Drewery will also travel to the District of Columbia later this spring to see who is awarded the national honor. She currently awaits to see if she places as one of the top four finalists, which should be announced in the upcoming week, she said.
Newly Elected Member Sworn In
The school board also introduced and swore in its newest member, Mike Gooch. Gooch was sworn in by Judge Johnny Wayne McLarty.
Gooch, a U.S. Army veteran and current director of Oxford Diagnostic Center, said his background in managing a multi-million-dollar budget and his ability to work well with a team makes him the best candidate to sit on the school board.
“I have one of the highest patient and employee satisfaction rates in the entire Baptist system,” he said. “I know how to work with people to achieve desired outcomes. Having been heavily involved in the planning phase of the new Baptist Hospital will be beneficial to the school board during the planning and construction of our new elementary school.”
Gooch, 50, has four children – one currently a ninth-grader at Lafayette High School, which he says gives him a vested interested in the school district.
A Lafayette High School graduate himself, Gooch attended and graduated from the University of Mississippi. He is currently the president of the Oxford Lions Club and a graduate of Leadership Lafayette.
He says he’d like to see LCSD bring more technology into the classrooms to better prepare students for the future.
“I would also like to see our school continue its momentum towards becoming one of the top 10 school districts in Mississippi,” he said. “I feel it will be important to ensure our teachers have all of the necessary tools to achieve such a goal. Our children are our future and the viability of our community depends on us to ensure we give our children every opportunity to be successful.