Starkville School District scored in last year”s teacher free-agent market.
A pair of newcomers received SSD”s top two annual awards during last week”s opening convocation.
Ward Stewart Elementary School special education teacher Courtney Honnoll was named Outstanding Teacher, while Wade Williams, now at Starkville High, was named Outstanding First-Year Teacher for his work teaching sixth-grade math at Armstrong Middle School.
Already anxious to announce the district”s state testing gains — results are currently embargoed throughout the state — SSD Interim Superintendent Beth Sewell said the accomplishments of Honnoll and Williams are part of a progressive climate within the district.
“These just aren”t great teachers in their schools and district, they”re outstanding teachers in their field,” Sewell said. “I feel like we have great teachers (in SSD), and that”s reflected in the eagerness to start the school year.”
Honnoll came to Starkville after splitting six years between Lowndes County schools Caledonia and New Hope. Honnoll has taught special education for six of her seven years as a teacher.
Her brief experience in a traditional classroom didn”t produce the student-teacher connection she craved. Honnoll, like a dedicated pro athlete, likes to push herself to the max, every day.
“These kids have my heart,” Honnoll said. “I want to be the voice for them. If I go home tired at the end of the day, I know I”ve done my job. I don”t know if I have anything special; they just bring it out of me.”
Honnoll teaches special education for third, fourth and fifth graders at Ward Stewart. She, like the other five faculty members honored on Aug. 3, were nominated by their peers at each school and selected by a district-wide committee.
“Being watched that closely just shows in the Starkville School District how concerned they are about the kids and their education,” Honnoll said. “I”m just so overwhelmed with this award, that I just don”t know how to put into words.”
Honnoll said her notable accomplishments last year were completing lengthy portfolio assessments on each of her students and the inclusion of her students in general education classes/activities.
For Williams, the top first-year teacher award is actually his second. He joined the district at Henderson Elementary in January 2010. After one semester, he was named top first-year teacher for the 2009-2010 school year.
Williams was again eligible for the award after completing a full year with SSD. He credited his bosses for giving him all the tools he needed at AMS.
“Obviously, the district did a lot to put me in a good situation,” he said. “(Armstrong principal Libby) Mosley and all of the administrators worked hard to make sure I came into a brand new classroom with technology to help me. That makes my job easier and gives the kids a tremendous advantage.
After the first day of school Monday, Williams will have had an award-winning effect on students at three different schools. He”s currently teaching advanced algebra, calculus and trigonometry at Starkville High.
“Since I started teaching, I always wanted to be at the high school level,” Williams said. “But one of the things about sixth grade was how impressionable they are and how easy they were to get along with. I”ll miss that.”
Other faculty members to receive awards were:
n Lenora Hogan-Samuel, a curriculum technology specialist at Starkville High School, was named SSD Outstanding Certified Non-Classroom Educator.
n Sophia Nickels, Carlos Kemp, Felicia Jones, Audra Willamson and Jennifer Kilpatrick earned the SSD Outstanding Team Award for their work on the GED Program Team at Overstreet School.
n Christopher Thompson, of Armstrong Middle School, and Diane Perry, of Starkville High School, were named SSD Outstanding Classified Support Staff.
n Starkville High School”s Elizabeth Nicholson was named SSD Outstanding Salaried Non-Certified Personnel.