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Early college teacher leads 2015 class

From left, Sherrie Jacobs, Sherry Martin, Glendora Alexander-Muhammad, Tukiiya Stephens, Anne Marie Bailey, Audrey Curry, Mary Kramer, Karen Hinson were named the teachers of the year at the respective schools in the Natchez-Adams School District. Stephens was named district teacher of the year. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

From left, Sherrie Jacobs, Sherry Martin, Glendora Alexander-Muhammad, Tukiiya Stephens, Anne Marie Bailey, Audrey Curry, Mary Kramer, Karen Hinson were named the teachers of the year at the respective schools in the Natchez-Adams School District. Stephens was named district teacher of the year. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — For many teachers, serving students is a calling.

For their hard work and service, Tukiiya Stephens, Audrey Curry, Sherrie Jacobs, Sherry Martin, Anne Marie Bailey, Glendora Alexander-Muhammad, Mary Kramer, Karen Hinson, Sandra Trimble, Catherine Lewis and Melita Bassett were all named the Natchez-Adams School District 2014-15 Teachers of the Year.

Teachers from across the district vote for one teacher at their school they believe deserves the honor, and the district teacher of the year is selected from that group of teachers.

Stephens, who was recently recognized as the district teacher of the year, said receiving the recognition was an overwhelming experience.

“It was humbling because I was up against these magnificent teachers that have so much more wisdom and so much more experience and knowledge,” said Stephens, who teaches biology and chemistry at Natchez Early College Academy. “I didn’t go in with a defeated heart or the thought of that I would not win it, but I knew that it would be a challenge because we are all magnificent teachers.”

Stephens said her best strategy is to spark interaction among her students, but everything isn’t just pencil and papers.

“If I’m trying to teach heart rates, sometimes I might tell them ‘lets turn a song on and we are going to jig for 20 seconds, or we are going to do jumping jacks for 20 seconds.’ Then we will take the heart rate.”

Everyday is something different for Stephens’ students when they enter the classroom — never settling for the norm.

It’s important to be focused on the students, she said.

Stephens received two bachelor of science degrees and her masters at Alcorn State University and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Stephens has been teaching in the school district for four years.

Curry is in her second year with the school district, where she teaches the health science course at Fallin Career and Technology Center.

Curry said she was challenged to come up with various ways her students could experience learning about the human body.

“I have a heart in my lab and I have a liver in my lab,” Curry said. “I try to acquire a lot of different things — a lot of different ways to help them understand and be able to do more hands on.”

Among the many topics Curry’s students learn in the health science course, she teaches them how to perform a physical examination, how to bathe patients, and check vital signs.

“We go through all of those various systems and my challenge is to make it be hands on as much as I possibly can,” Curry said.

Curry is originally from Detroit, where she served as a school nurse for 40 years.

Curry received her bachelor in nursing and masters in management at Walsh College in Michigan.

Despite 40 years of education, Jacobs did not expect to become the teacher of the year.

Jacobs, who teaches English at Natchez High School, is in her second year with the school district where she loves her classroom.

“I love the front lines,” Jacobs said. “I’m just crazy about those children. I hop up out of bed every morning, all of these years, and can’t wait to get to the classroom.”

Jacobs said it’s all about establishing a relationship.

“I can’t teach students anything until I get that connection,” she said. “I want to know who they are, who they’re dating, when they break up — I want to know their mom and dad, which church they go to — I want to know everything about them.”

Through her teaching, Jacobs hopes to display the talents and character of students within the school district.

“They are smart,” Jacobs said. “That’s why I’m pushing and pushing. I’m their champion.”

Jacobs received her undergrad degree at Northeast Louisiana University, now known as University of Louisiana Monroe. She received her master’s for a reading specialist from the University of Southern Mississippi and her secondary counseling certification back at NLU.

Martin, who teaches English at Natchez Freshman Academy, said the hardest thing for her is to prepare her students for state testing.

“I want to make sure I teach them the correct skills and make sure they are prepared for the testing,” Martin said. “Keeping them motivated is hard.”

Martin said she finds comfort in her student’s learning throughout the school year.

“Just to see them master the skills that I know will be on state tests is rewarding,” she said.

Martin attended Alcorn State University, where she received her bachelor’s in education and master’s in guidance education.

Bailey, who teaches visual arts at MGT Arts Academy, was awarded teacher of the year for keeping her students engaged.

“I love teaching middle school kids,” she said. “I’m so lucky to be able to teach art.”

Bailey’s students spend their time drawing and painting, but she also tries to apply other subjects such as English into her classroom.

“It gives them a creative outlet,” Bailey said. “It shows them problem solving and it gives them more practice.”

The students don’t have to write about a story, they can write how they feel after looking at a picture, Bailey said.

Bailey has been with the school district for five years.

She attended the Mississippi University for Women were she studied in studio arts.

Glendora Alexander-Muhammad, technology foundation teacher and keyboarding instructor at Robert Lewis Magnet School, said she is open to learning from her students.

“If my students know of a skill, and I’m teaching a skill and they say ‘I know how to do that differently,’ I let them show the entire class,” Alexander-Muhammad said.

Alexander-Muhammad said to make sure her students are doing well, she would collaborate with her teachers.

“Whatever objectives my teachers are using, I implement it in my class room,” she said.

Alexander-Muhammad attended Alcorn State University where she studied in business education.

Kramer teaches third-grade language arts at McLaurin Elementary, where she is closing in on two years with the school district.

Kramer said her joy of teaching comes from her students.

“There are a lot of wonderful students and teachers in the Natchez-Adams School District,” Kramer said.  “I’m pleased to work in a building with so many wonderful, motivated students and teachers.”

Kramer’s passion is to instill the love of reading into her students.

“To be lifelong learners, you have to have a love for reading,” she said. “I am an encourager, a motivator and a cheerleader. I’m their advocate.”

Kramer attended Mississippi State University where she studied in education. She also has a national board certification in literacy.

Hinson, who once had the desire to be a flight attendant, ventured off into education during her second semester in college.

Hinson teaches all subjects at Frazier Elementary School. She is grateful for changing her career path and being named teacher of the year.

“I feel as if this is the hall of fame for teachers,” Hinson said.

For several years, Hinson’s third grade has often been recognized as the accelerated reading champions.

“I push reading,” she said. “They get so excited and they absolutely love to read.”

Hinson has taught in the school district for 16 years and attended Northeast Louisiana University Monroe.

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