By Brian Livingston / email@example.com
The Meridian Star
Dr. Belinda Bennett-Ott's first love is the little students she teaches each day in preparing them for their education. She doesn't seek accolades or awards. Her driving force is the little smiles she sees each morning at Northeast Lauderdale County Elementary School. She has devoted years of her life for this one mission.
It was only fitting that the educator, with 45 years total experience in teaching and 25 with the Lauderdale County School District, was surprised Monday morning with the announcement she was the Teacher of the Year for the school district.
"What an honor," said a slightly embarrassed and totally surprised Bennett-Ott as the flowers, cake and gifts were handed to her in front of her young students from school district officials. "With the hundreds of excellent teachers and educators in the school district. To be recognized for this is amazing."
Bennett-Ott teaches three, four and five year olds with special needs at Northeast Elementary School in order to prepare them for kindergarten. Bennett-Ott, affectionally referred to as "BB" by her fellow educators, leaves no stone unturned when it comes to giving the students her undivided commitment to education, said Karen Rhodes.
"BB has made a tremendous difference in the lives of so many for so long," said Rhodes, who is the LCSD Special Education Coordinator. "These children come in with a wide assortment of learning disabilities and it takes a high level of commitment to keep up with all the needs of these children and those of the parents as well."
"She is marvelous," said Terri Edwards, who up until last year was the principal at Northeast Elementary and is now in the LCSD Central Office. "She left us for a short time to be a professor at the University of West Alabama but she just missed the little students too much. She had to come back and we are glad she did."
LCSD Superintendent Randy Hodges said he was pleased with the selection of Bennett-Ott pointing out the teachers of the district are dedicated to the children and their learning.
"As a school district it is our goal to support the teachers any way we can because that in turn will benefit the students a great deal," said Hodges. "We appreciate the hard work Dr. Bennett-Ott has done and we congratulate her on this accomplishment. She is certainly worthy of this recognition."
Bennett-Ott is a past recipient of the William E. Gilbert Award for outstanding teaching from UWA.
While accepting the gracious clapping from her young charges sitting in front of her, Bennett-Ott beamed with gratitude.
"Teachers and educators are obligated to do the best we can for all the students," Bennett-Ott said during a lull in the excitement. "I love these children. These children make it a pleasure to come to work."
Bennett-Ott's name will now be submitted for consideration for the state Teacher of the Year to be named later this spring.