Meridian Star

January 21, 2013

Love with discipline makes the grade

By Terri Ferguson Smith / tsmith@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Providing discipline, setting high goals for students and showing them that she cares for them, Emily Lee, a fourth grade teacher at Northeast Elementary School has been named a success in her field.

    Lee has been named the Golden Apple Award teacher of the month for January.

    Nominated by a student and the mother of a former student, Lee was surprised with an awards ceremony at her school on Wednesday. The announcement was made in the school's auditorium in front of staff and students.

    Randy Hodges, superintendent of Lauderdale County School District, thanked Lee for her service on behalf of the district's 450 teachers, 7,000 students, and 940 employees.

    Hodges recalled the words he said to teachers at the beginning of the school year. He asked them what would be the greatest gift they could give their students.

    "That gift is an outstanding teacher," Hodges said. "We have an outstanding school district. It is one of the top school districts out of 182 in Mississippi. The number one reason we are successful is because we have outstanding teachers."

    With Lee's award, all three Northeast Lauderdale schools have had a teacher recognized with a Golden Apple Award. Earlier this school year, Northeast Lauderdale High School and Northeast Lauderdale Middle School had teachers picked for the award.

    Participating sponsors of the Golden Apple Award read nomination letters and make the selection. The winner gets a "Golden Apple" trophy and a voucher for $1,000 in school supplies, a $300 check and the chance to be named the Golden Apple Teacher of the Year in May. The winner also will have the opportunity to nominate a graduating senior for a scholarship.

    Lee, who has been a teacher for nine and a half years, earned praise from her principal, Tammy Crowe.

    "She is the only teacher here at Northeast Elementary that every one of her kids, last year, scored advanced or proficient on the MCT 2," Crowe said. "She didn't have any kids that scored basic or minimum. We're really really proud of her."

    Also, Lee is a part of the school's leadership team and she is a member of the Mississippi Source Team and the Art Leadership Team.

    Lee was humbled by the award.

    "I'm very grateful. It's an honor for any teacher to get," Lee said. "I was completely shocked. We had no idea why we were assembling this morning," Lee said.

    Lee said as the mother of three, she tries to run her classroom the way she would want her children's teachers to conduct themselves in their classrooms.

    "I want to teach them respect," Lee said. "I want them to grow up to be smart, constructive citizens. I want them to be loved."

    Lee said she tries to show her students that she cares about them.

    "I genuinely love my kids. I care about their families," Lee said. "I care about how they feel. I care about what they are doing outside of school. I tell people I don't have three kids, I have 28 kids."

    When she begins a new school year, Lee said she tries to be firm, yet loving.

    "I set extremely high expectations for my kids and most of the time, we meet them because I push them," Lee said. "We work very hard in the classroom. I really try to show them that I care but I also show them that we're here for one job and that's to learn and to grow."

    The mother of a former student who became friends with Lee's son nominated Lee for the award.

    "As a military family, transitioning to different schools every three years can be really hard on a child," she wrote. "Mrs.  Lee helped my son transition into the Mississippi school system with ease. She put him under her wing and prepared him for middle school. She is one of the few teachers I have dealt with while in Mississippi willing to stay after school without blinking an eye, she is willing to help any child with school struggles to make sure they understand."

    The student's mother wrote that Lee also helped them get their son enrolled in sports.

    A student wrote: "She is a kind and loving teacher. I love my teacher, Mrs. Lee."     The student added that every child is ready for the fifth grade when they leave her classroom at the end of the school year.

    To nominate a teacher, go to either meridianstar.com or wgbctv.com and click on the Golden Apple logo.

    One teacher will be awarded each month and a teacher of the year will be selected in May.

    Nominations can be submitted by parents, faculty, or community members as well as past and present students. Candidates must be a current, full-time, faculty member in a public or private school system who are working within the following counties: in Mississippi — Lauderdale, Neshoba, Kemper, Clarke, or Newton counties. In Alabama — Choctaw and Sumter counties.

    The nomination process consists of an essay of no more than 500 words detailing why the person should be considered for the Golden Apple Award.