Exemplary educators recognized at BOE meeting

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

During the Jan. 22 regular meeting of the Crenshaw County Board of Education (CCBOE) a celebration of excellence was held as the Crenshaw County School District (CCSD) honored its standout educators.

The prestigious titles of “Teacher of the Year” were bestowed upon individuals who have demonstrated exceptional dedication, innovative teaching methods and an unwavering commitment to their students.

Superintendent Dodd Hawthorne expressed gratitude for the remarkable efforts of all teachers, staff, and administrators in the system.

“We would like to commend all of our teachers, staff and administrators for the outstanding work they do in our system,” said Hawthorne. “Crenshaw County is home to exceptional educators, and we are proud to celebrate their efforts, accomplishments, and passion. They have truly made a lasting impact on the lives of their students, helping them grow both academically and personally. As they continue to innovate in the classroom and go above and beyond to create a nurturing learning environment, we are honored to have these educators as part of our community of learners and leaders in Crenshaw County. Their passion for teaching is contagious and their efforts truly make a difference.”

Candidates for Staff Member of the Year were Brantley’s Lisa Johnson, Highland Home’s Joni White and Luverne’s LaTisha Mitchell.

White, who is in her fourth year as a teacher at Highland Home, took home the award.

Recognized for her selflessness and dedication to her students, White’s colleague, Special Education Teacher Brenna Sexton, commended her for going above and beyond. Sexton shared stories of White’s generosity, from buying students fidgets, toys, and candy to arriving early and leaving late.

“Joni is my ‘right hand man’ and I couldn’t survive without her,” Sexton said. “She volunteers for anything and everything no matter the sacrifice. She truly has a servant’s heart and a desire to help and love others that shows daily in all she does. It takes a very special person to do what Joni does, but no matter how hectic or stressful her day may be, she handles it with such grace. Our classroom and Highland Home School is blessed to have her.”

Amidst the challenges that can arise in the multi-use classroom, Joni’s commitment has enhanced the quality of education and profoundly impacted the overall life of her students. According to Patricia Dorsey, White has become a beacon of support and inspiration for her non-verbal autistic grandson.

“Joni has been there every step of the way to help my grandson achieve his goals,” Dorsey said. “Even on hard days, Joni meets him where he is with love and encouragement. She has improved the quality of his education and life and my family is forever grateful.”

Stephanie Cornett, a collaborative teacher at Luverne, clinched the Elementary Teacher of the Year award. The category boasted strong contenders, including Brittany Green from Brantley and Nanette Roth from Highland Home.

Assistant Principal Jennifer Gilmore praised Cornett’s devotion, stating that the teacher exemplifies the qualities of an exceptional educator through her unparalleled dedication to students and the school community. According to Gilmore, Cornett’s commitment extends deep and wide even beyond the classroom.

“One of Mrs. Cornett’s most admirable traits is her genuine care for her students and their families,” Gilmore said. “She understands the importance of building strong connections between home and school, and she prioritizes making those connections. Mrs. Cornett goes out of her way to establish meaningful relationships with families, creating a supportive community that extends beyond the school walls…Mrs. Cornett is always ready to lend a helping hand and collaborate with her peers. Her willingness to work together with colleagues fosters a positive and collaborative atmosphere within the school. Mrs. Cornett’s generosity in sharing her knowledge and expertise contributes significantly to the professional growth of the entire teaching community.”

Former student Kerrington Jones expressed gratitude for Cornett’s positive influence, emphasizing her ability to support and celebrate students’ successes without resorting to negativity.

“She loves us and helps when we need it,” Kerrington said. “She doesn’t yell or scream. When we did good on the ACAP she celebrated our successes with us.”

Crystal Jones, Kerrington’s mother, recognized Cornett’s involvement beyond the classroom, attending extracurricular activities and providing support during breaks. According to Crystal, Corbett’s impact on her students’ lives and her advocacy for their potential are evident.

“Mrs Stephanie loves the kids like they’re hers,” Crystal said. “She comes to their extracurricular activities, and checks on them during the summer and on holiday breaks. She encourages the kids to believe they are capable of doing anything they put their mind to.”

Christy Little, a math teacher at Brantley, received the title of High School Teacher of the Year. She went head-to-head with formidable candidates Casey Cothran from Highland Home and Derri Andress from Luverne.

According to student Katie Moates, Little’s dedication to her students goes beyond the curriculum, creating a supportive and inclusive learning environment.

“Mrs. Little treats all the students the same,” Moates said. “She is always willing to help us succeed both in the classroom and beyond and always has a smile on her face.”

Described as an exceptional recipient, Little’s contributions extend beyond her role as a dedicated science teacher according to Brantley School Principal Marcus Taylor who highlighted her involvement in various leadership roles, including Senior Class Sponsor, Peer Helper Advisor, Band Color Guard Assistant, Mu Alpha Theta Sponsor, National Honor Society Sponsor, and more.

“Her commitment extends to school leadership, contributing to the MTSS Advisory Team, ACIP Team and OnToCollege Administrative Team,” Taylor said. “Her pursuit of continuous learning is evident through teaching summer STEM courses at Troy University, showcasing her dedication to both education and student enrichment. Mrs. Little’s multifaceted involvement and passion make her an exemplary leader in secondary education.”

Cornett and Little will advance to the district level, where they will compete for Alabama’s Teacher of the Year.