Teachers of the Year announced for Hamilton County Schools
Posted on 01/25/2019
Three teachers of the year
Hamilton County Schools surprised three of the best classroom teachers in the district today with the announcement of their selection as a 2019 Teacher of the Year for the school system. The Teachers of the Year are Sara Pratt, a fourth-grade teacher at Apison Elementary School, for the elementary grades division; Michele Jones, a fifth-grade teacher at Middle Valley Elementary School, for middle grades in the fifth through eighth-grade division; and Kristen Robertson, a ninth-grade teacher at Signal Mountain Middle/High in the high school division. The announcements were made in the teachers’ classrooms this morning. These three exceptional teachers will now advance to the state level in the Teacher of the Year recognition for Tennessee.

Sara Pratt is in her fourth year of teaching, and she has spent all of that time at Apison Elementary School teaching fourth-grade. She considers herself as a facilitator of learning instead of someone who just imparts knowledge to the children in her class. In Ms. Pratt’s classroom, achievement starts with the culture of respect and authentic thinking she shares with her students. “Children find that in my class they will struggle with problems, but in that struggle there is growth,” said Pratt. “We celebrate this struggle and growth process by recognizing when our thinking has evolved as a result of learning.”

In her classroom, students reenact King George’s taxation using M&Ms, explore kinetic energy through rubber band launches, or sample books in the “Reading Café” when she hosts quarterly “book tastings.” Students build their knowledge through active participation in class activities. “I do not tell children what to think but rather present the material and allow them to explore and grapple with their own intelligent thoughts,” Pratt added. “I start with a foundation of knowing my students as individuals and this allows me to design instruction that helps everyone achieve.”

Michele Jones has taught fifth-grade a Middle Valley Elementary since beginning her teaching career in 2007. She has been a math and literacy teacher since 2016. She previously taught math, science, and social studies. Jones’ classroom practices and strategies have varied depending on the subject and group of students in her class, but high levels of growth and excitement for learning are a constant. “During my first six years as a science and social studies teacher, I focused my teaching on hands-on experiments and discovery-based learning,” Jones said. “When I move to math, I continued to engage my students with discovery-based experiments and quickly realized that the method was also a highly effective strategy in math as well.”

Love, encouragement, and understanding is imperative in Jones’ classroom. “In order to grow we first must try and sometimes fail,” Jones added. “However, if we learn from our mistake and keep persevering, we can and will overcome whatever obstacle we face.” Jones’ work with the community has led to a partnership between Middle Valley Elementary and the North River Rotary Club. The club has introduced the Four-Way Test program to the students at the school. The Four-Way Test encourages students to evaluate what they think, say and do by considering is it the truth, is it fair to all concerned, will it build goodwill and better friendships, and will it be beneficial to all concerned.

Kristen Robertson is a ninth-grade English teacher at Signal Mountain Middle/High School and has been at the school since 2013. She has also taught eighth-grade language arts and previously taught at Soddy Daisy High. Robertson serves as a personal project instructor working with 25 students each year to complete their culminating personal project for the International Baccalaureate Middle Years program. Building positive relationships and establishing a classroom environment with high expectations that encourages all students to embrace new challenges and academic risks is important to Robertson. “Teachers who form relationships see the most authentic growth and learning because their students know that their teachers believe in them and want to invest in their lives,” Robertson said. She builds relationships by meeting with eighth-grade teachers to discover her new ninth-graders interests in extra-curricular activities and strengths and weaknesses in academic subjects.

Robertson also makes it a priority to attend sporting events and to interact with her students in the community to build relationships and learn more about her students. “I use this information to invent fun activities that hook student interests at the beginning of lessons,” she added. “I have found that going the extra mile on the front end to interact and build trust with my students makes a significant difference in their growth because they feel comfortable with me and want to do their best in my class.” Roberson also includes a writing portfolio in her class to help students set goals, organize writing tasks, and chart the strengths and weaknesses of each writing assignment. “We discuss their portfolios in terms of how they are improving, what goals they have set, and which academic risks they can take in order to reach the next level of achievement,” Robertson said.