Teacher of year vies for state honor

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 31, 2004

NATCHEZ &045;&045; Lula James wasn’t named the Natchez-Adams School District teacher of the year because of her time in the classroom.

All the other candidates had great in-class track records, too. It was James’ role outside the classroom that set her apart, fellow teachers and students said.

&uot;She’s like a mother to us,&uot; eighth grader LeOndra Ford said.

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&uot;She helps us to pull up our grades or if we have a problem we go to her and she’ll just solve it,&uot; fellow student Vernecia Cade said.

James is good in the classroom too, Robert Lewis Middle School Principal Cynthia Smith said.

&uot;She’s hard working and energetic,&uot; Smith said. &uot;She’s one of those that you really don’t have to worry about.&uot;

James, an eighth-grade science teacher at Robert Lewis, found out about the award when representatives from the superintendent’s office came into her room one day.

&uot;I was so happy,&uot; she said. &uot;All of the teachers were very good. I just thank God it was me. Maybe my hard work has not been in vain.&uot;

James was first chosen as the teacher of the year for her school before being entered in the district-wide competition. At the district level, James had to attend an interview session at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. &uot;My favorite thing as a teacher is to see the student’s faces light up after they have mastered an objective,&uot; James said.

&uot;I see them learn, make choices and set goals to be a success in society.&uot;

James, 55, has been teaching for 31 years, 13 of which have been at Robert Lewis. Her involvement with students through extracurricular activities such as the school’s anti-drug club has given her a chance to really get to know them.

&uot;A ‘hello’ before class or small talk with a student in the local mall often brings great satisfaction,&uot; she said.

&uot;Of course, some of the best rewards come when friendships begin in the classroom and develop over time with former students.&uot;

James, a graduate of Alcorn State University, credits her success in the classroom to the values her parents instilled upon her.

&uot;My dad taught me that whatever you do, do it good,&uot; James said. &uot;Living in a large family taught me generosity. Much was given to me and much, in turn, was expected.&uot;

James’ application will now be sent to the state teacher of the year competition.

&uot;I think her chances are excellent (at the state level),&uot; Smith said. &uot;There are excellent teachers, but I’d put her up against any of them.&uot;