HCS Honors Teachers of the Year
Posted on 12/27/2023
HCS Honors Teachers of the Year (Chattanooga, Tennessee) - Hamilton County Schools leadership surprised three teachers on Thursday, December 7, when they stopped by their classrooms to congratulate each of them on being selected grade-level Teachers of the Year for the district.

Catherine Casselman, a fourth-grade teacher at East Side Elementary; Matty Hardy, a career and technical education teacher at Normal Park Museum Magnet Upper; and Olivia Kane, a chemistry and biology teacher at The STEM School, were recognized for their exemplary work and dedication as teachers and leaders within the school system. Each had previously been named as their schools’ top teacher for the year.

HCS Superintendent Dr. Justin Robertson, the winners’ principals, and others joined to make the surprise district-level announcements and thank the honorees for their continued support of Hamilton County students. Following this recognition, these teachers will now advance to the state level consideration as Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year.

"Behind all successful students are teachers who believed in them and inspired them to reach their full potential,” said Robertson. “It is a privilege to celebrate the dedication and hard work of these outstanding teachers of the year. Their commitment to our students and their passion for education is inspiring. I look forward to continuing to support and celebrate our excellent educators in Hamilton County. Ms. Casselman, Ms. Hardy, and Ms. Kane are three examples of the high-quality educators we have in our district, and we thank them for their dedication to our students.”

Catherine Casselman has been an educator for six years, with five and a half years spent in Tennessee. During her time with HCS, she has diligently worked to be an advocate for students and her colleagues. Casselman teaches math and makes it a point to use precise language when discussing concepts. She feels this allows students to show their understanding of concepts which helps her identify where gaps in knowledge may require extra instructional attention. When it comes to ensuring other teachers have what they need, Casselman takes a similar approach. As a lead mentor Casselman assists with monthly professional development. One strategy used in these sessions is also discourse. Teachers who are having specific issues are able to tell a group their situation, and the group is able to provide solutions and ideas. During this time, the teacher presenting the challenge is simply an observer. This structure for feedback allows teachers to learn from others and have thoughtful reflection on the issue. Casselman stated of her desire to mentor new teachers, “Supporting new teachers is one of my passions as an educator…Strengthening new teachers with research-based strategies and multiple levels of support impacts the overall culture of our school and district positively.”

Matty Hardy, has eight years of experience as an educator with six those spent teaching in Tennessee. Hardy is passionate about creating connections and project based learning at Normal Park. She does this by bridging the gap between grade level with projects that engage students at every level. One of these projects was about plastic pollution. She created a project that combined students in sixth grade with students in third grade. Sixth grade students learned about ocean pollution and tracking waste in the ocean currents. The students collected plastic waste which they used to help the third graders create plastic sculptures. This project brought together students across grade level but also created staff connections and collaboration. Hardy enjoys these type of projects because they, “improve school culture by building relationships between campuses and the community and bring joy and excitement in the classroom through engaging hands on learning.”

Olivia Kane, an educator with five years of experience in Hamilton County Schools, is the Chemistry teacher for the STEM School. In her role, Kane searches for innovative ways to teach her students with hands-on real-world experiments, while also creating community and student partnerships. In the past, Kane has utilized a collaborative teaching opportunity with The Howard High Schools Future Ready culinary program to teach the chemistry of baking, data evaluation, and hypothesis testing. Additionally, Kane works with her STEM colleagues in the Global Center for Digital Innovation to teach chemical bonding, prototyping, and the iterative design process. Kane worked to build student curiosity and joy in the classroom through these hands-on activities. She stated she has flipped her teaching style from “I do, we do, you do” to “you do, we do, I do.” This change allows students to formulate their own understandings of patterns and connection. Kane aims to provide students with skills they can use in all aspects of their lives regardless of if they pursue a career in science.