Teachers of the Year are selected for Hamilton County Schools
Posted on 01/31/2020
Hamilton County Schools surprised three of the best classroom teachers in the district today with the announcement of their selection as a Teacher of the Year for the school system. The Teachers of the Year are Michelle Bailey, a multiage teacher at Thrasher Elementary School, for the elementary grades division; David Jackson, a seventh-grade teacher at Brown Middle School, for middle grades in the fifth through eighth-grade division; and Emily McDonald, a math teacher at Red Bank High School in the high school division. Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson made the announcements this morning by surprising the teachers in their classrooms. These three exceptional teachers will now advance to the state level in the Teacher of the Year recognition for Tennessee.

Michelle Bailey started her career in teaching in 2012, and she has spent all of that time at Thrasher Elementary School teaching a kindergarten and first-grade multiage class. The multiage approach has kindergarten and first-grade children working and learning together in the same classroom setting.  She understands there is not a single recipe for a successful classroom for all children. “I develop strong relationships with the children and families in my classroom and use a variety of methods to get to know my children,” said Bailey. “I take the time to eat lunch with my students, interact with them on the playground, and greet each of them with a smile to welcome each child to a new learning day.”

Bailey uses a system for young beginning readers to learn words that she has developed.  The system helps children learn words based on each child’s level and need.  “Students meet with me individually each day to check on their progress learning targeted words,” said Bailey.  She also works to learn each student’s unique talents, strengths, and learning styles. 

Bailey is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  She is a piano teacher for children with special learning abilities, a LEGO coach and camp coordinator, LEGO facilitator for the Chambliss Children’s Home fundraiser, and a McConnell Elementary STEM night LEGO coach.

David Jackson has taught seventh-grade math and science at Brown Middle School since 2015.  The academic performance of the students in his class is in the top 10 percent of classes at Brown Middle to score Level 5 for two or more consecutive years.  In 2018-2019, his classes scored Level 5 in both math and science.  More than 90 percent of Jackson’s students have met their expected annual growth for the past two years. “My goal is for every student to be actively engaged in asking and answering questions, and debating in class,” said Jackson. 

“Warm, yet strict,” is Jackson’s mantra that he lives by as a teacher. “I am approachable and generous with my time for students and adults,” Jackson said. “I can take on a playful demeanor when the time is appropriate and my students know that I do not take myself seriously at all times. However, they also know that I expect us all to take care of business first and that there is a boundary between the fun and the serious.”  

Jackson is also persistent when he seeks to secure learning opportunities for the children at Brown.  He co-wrote a proposal to get a Volkswagen eLab at Brown in 2017.  The effort was not successful that first year. “I tried again but brought even more colleagues onto the team the next year to provide expertise in technology and grant writing,” Jackson added.  The second effort was successful in getting the VW eLab with over $100,000 in renovations for the school.  The Brown Middle eLab has earned certification from the FAB Foundation.  “Educators should ignite a passion for lifelong learning in their students,” said Jackson as he described his interest in serving as the sponsor of a student group called the Entrepreneur Academy.  The Academy allows students to create, market, and sell items they create in the VW eLab. “I believe in the power of applying real-world experiences to teaching,” said Jackson. “Students retain and stretch their thinking so much more when they can see how what they learn is applied to the real world.”

Jackson is a graduate of Loyola University.  He serves as a whitewater merit badge counselor for the Scouts, a river guide leader, and he is a Wilderness First Responder.  

Emily McDonald is a math teacher at Red Bank High School and has been at the school since 2015. She has taught Honors Calculus, Algebra 2, ACT Prep for Math and Science, Pre-Calculus, Algebra 1, and Geometry. She wants her students to understand math as it relates to their life and uses technology in her class to promote creativity and exploration.

“In my classroom, I strive to foster a culture where students understand the application of mathematics in their everyday lives,” said McDonald. “My Pre-Calculus students have participated in the UTC Mathematics Poster Competition for the past two years. The event prompts students to create and present their work and learn more about STEM fields.”

For the 2018-2019 school year her students showed substantial growth resulting in a Level 5 score.  “Being cognizant of student achievement from prior years has helped me shape my practice to better meet the needs of my students,” she added.

McDonald and her students prepared examples of their work for a recent Red Bank High ROAR (Reflections of Outstanding Academic Rigor) Night.  The group shared a “Coding Calculus” SEM (Student Engagement Model) during the event.  “The most fulfilling aspect of the night was to watch the passion of my students as they explained their work and mathematics understanding to visitors attending,” said McDonald.

McDonald is a graduate of Tennessee Tech.  She coordinates social media for Red Bank and is faculty council for the school’s National Honors Society.