° empty

VJHS teacher earns top honors

ROD GUAJARDO / The Natchez Democrat — Vidalia Junior High School teacher Shannon Ashley teaches her fourth period class of seventh graders Wednesday afternoon. Ashley was named Concordia Parish Teacher of the Year and top teacher at Vidalia Junior High School. Ashley teaches seventh grade American History and is a 1985 graduate of Vidalia High School.

VIDALIA — In only three years at Vidalia Junior High, Shannon Ashley has received two top Concordia Parish teaching honors.

Ashley was named Concordia Parish Teacher of the Year at last month’s school board meeting.

But before reaching the upper echelon of parish teaching awards, she was also voted by the faculty as the top teacher at Vidalia Junior High.

“Principal (Whest) Shirley announced it to the school, and I was surprised because I had no idea,” Ashley said. “Both awards meant a lot to me, but the top teacher was special because my peers voted on that.”

Ashley, who teaches seventh grade American History, moved to Vidalia from Winnsboro, La., and actually started her Concordia Parish education at Vidalia Junior High School.

She graduated from Vidalia High in 1985 and continued her higher education at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Hopping around from ULM, Copiah-Lincoln Community College and Alcorn State University, it wasn’t until she took a Western Civilization class that she decided to pursue a social science education.

“My background before was math and science, but that class changed everything,” Ashley said. “After that class, I changed my major and have been teaching social studies and American history ever since.”

With an Alcorn degree in her hand, Ashley spent the next 16 years teaching 11th graders at Adams County Christian School.

Making the change from high school to junior high school hasn’t been a walk in the park, Ashley said.

“It’s difficult because sometimes the seventh graders still want to be treated like they’re younger and some times they want to be treated like adults,” Ashley said. “There’s a big difference in teaching 11th graders to seventh graders.”

Slowly but surely, Ashley said she came around to junior high and public school life.

“The other big change was just moving from a private school to a public school,” Ashley said. “I had to revamp my teaching methods, but once you get used to everything, it’s actually not that much different.”

With the two local awards under her belt, Ashley now moves to a bigger stage — regional competition.

If she wins the regional teacher of the year award, then she will move to the state level.

And even though she will put in just as much work into those applications, Ashley said she won’t get her hopes up if she’s not selected.

“There’s no way I’ll get that far,” Ashley said. “But that would be something.”