Meridian Star

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October 27, 2013

Social studies teacher mothers her students into learning

MERIDIAN —     Making government, economics and world history relevant to high school students has always been a challenge for social studies teachers, but for Vanessa Reed of Meridian High School, it takes being both an educator and, sometimes, a mom.

    The 26-year veteran teacher is the October recipient of the Golden Apple Award, which seeks to call attention to the best educators in the area. Reed was surprised on Thursday to see a crowd of people invade her classroom to tell her that she won the award. During the presentation of the Golden Apple Award,  Reed received a Golden Apple trophy, a $300 check, a voucher for $1,000 in school supplies and she will automatically be in the running for teacher of the year, which will be announced in May.

    MHS principal Victor Hubbard said Reed is a great example of what good teachers can do for their students.

    "Students understand when teachers really care about them, and Mrs. Reed is more than a teacher to many of our students. She's a mother figure," Hubbard said. "When you have that relationship with students, it goes toward respect. Her students really respect her."

    Hubbard said Reed does not have discipline problems in her classroom.

    "We haven't had a discipline referral from her and it's because she builds relationships with her students," Hubbard said. "She serves as a mentor for many of our first-year teachers. She serves as a great leadership figure for our teachers here. She is a leader not only here in our school but in our community."

    Asked about her success in keeping out discipline problems, Reed said it's a fairly simple formula and it's one that she learned from her parents.

"There is only one adult. You respect me; I'll respect you. I'll treat you like you're my child and you treat me like I'm your mother," Reed said. "I make sure they know I'm looking after their best interests every day."

    Reed said she was shocked to earn the Golden Apple Award.

    "You know you are doing something worthwhile, but to be openly and publicly recognized makes all the difference in the world for everything that you've done for your entire career," Reed said.

    By the time she was in the fifth grade, Reed said she knew she wanted to teach social studies.

    "The teacher just made social studies come alive," Reed said. "We did oral presentations, drama, and skits. It was fun and interesting."

    Reed said she not only takes on the role of mother but also the role of counselor to her students.

    "I teach them like I want my own children to be taught." Reed said. "As a teacher, I believe I should give them everything they need so they can be successful once they graduate from high school and go on to college."

    Reed is able to keep her students engaged in economics and government by talking about current events in the classroom.

    "That's our whole focus. Regardless of what we talk about, we can always relate that back to what is going on with the economy; locally and nationally," Reed said. "With our world events we sort of intertwine as we talk about the branches of government and what role they are playing currently and what's going on in the nation."

    Her advice to new teachers: "Be calm; be patient. Get to know your students. Get a very good understanding of your subject matter and make it relevant."

    Reed said it's heartening to have students come into the classroom and tell her that they saw something on television the night before that they could relate to what they had studied in her class the previous day.

    "They want to expound on what we covered the day before because they saw that particular issue in the news," Reed said.

    For the Golden Apple Award, each month nominations are solicited and a panel of judges considers the nominations after the teachers' names, and the names of the schools have been removed.

    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 is 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. The teacher of the month will be recognized in a surprise ceremony and will receive  a prize package and a cash award.

    Specific details and an entry form are on meridianstar.com and wgbctv.com . Those interested in nominating a teacher should go to either of the websites, and click on the Golden Apple logo.

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