By Terri Ferguson Smith / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
ENTERPRISE — Surprise and tears marked the awarding of the first Golden Apple award of the school year on Thursday.
Ashley Sisson, a 17-year veteran educator was surprised in her classroom at Enterprise High School with the award.
Sisson, who teaches Information Technology, was nominated by the mother of a former student.
"Mrs. Sisson goes the extra mile for her students," wrote Karen Williams in her nomination letter. "Actually she goes miles and miles for her students."
Sisson is also the advisor for the school's Future Business Leaders of America club and led fundraising efforts earlier this year when a student qualified to go to the national FBLA convention in Anaheim, California. They raised enough money to cover travel expenses and the student had a memorable trip, according to Williams.
During the presentation of the Golden Apple Award, a surprised Sisson 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.
Mike Weathers, principal of Enterprise High, said he was pleased that such an outstanding teacher was picked for recognition.
"I'm very excited for Mrs. Sisson. She does an outstanding job here. She is very involved in everything," Weathers said. "She's involved in all the booster clubs. She takes kids to testing for FBLA and she takes them to Jackson. She has very high expectations for them and they normally come up to the expectations."
Tristen Turner has taken IT 1 and IT 2 under Sisson.
"Not only is she a teacher, but we can come to her for different reasons if we need help with other things. She can help us," Turner said.
Sisson said her initial reaction when she saw a group of people entering her classroom on Thursday was, "Is my room clean? Why are they here?"
In Sisson's case, becoming a teacher was like going to work in the family store. She came from a family of teachers: her mother, father, sister, sister-in-law, and her brother-in-law have all been teachers.
However, it was her computer and business teacher in high school who inspired her to enter the teaching profession.
"She gave me a love of the computer so this is why I do what I do," Sisson said.
Sisson said she began teaching seventh and eighth grade students computer skills in 1996. An enormous amount of changes in technology has occurred since.
"Not many people had computers," she said. "They were really new."
Sisson initially taught them how to type, and how to operate Microsoft Works 3.1 and Windows 3.1.
"Also the internet was fairly new, email was fairly new so I could say, 'let's play solitaire online,' and it was like I had given them Christmas because they didn't have it any other way," Sisson said. "Now, to offer them games online is nothing because they can pull their phone out and play — when they are not in school."
Sisson has continuously upgraded her own skills so she can go back to the classroom and teach.
"We have to do training and upgrades for our teaching licenses. Each class that I have taught since I started has required me to go back and take another certification, another class," Sisson said.
She enjoys teaching teenagers, she said.
"The high schoolers sometimes think they know more than you know and some of them do know more than I do because I'm afraid to go into that computer and start making changes," Sisson said. "They don't care if they crash it. I panic if I crash it. That is the learning process too."
She feels good about helping prepare them for the next step in life, whether or not it is college.
"They want to learn a skill that they might can use outside," Sisson said. "Not everybody wants to go to college. At least now they would have a little bit of a technology skill that they could use as a side job if nothing else."
Sisson said she tries to be available to her students.
"My door is open all day. Even after school or before school," she said. "Come and find me, come and see me. They know they can come in to talk to me."
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.
The title sponsor is the Meridian Area Credit Unions, which includes MUNA Federal Credit Union, First Mississippi Federal Credit Union, and Meridian Mutual Federal Credit Union. Key sponsors are the Meridian Family of Stations, The Meridian Star, East Mississippi Electric Power Association, Richard Schwartz and Associates, Woodstock Furniture, Georgia Pacific, Mississippi Power, LA-Z-Boy, Mississippi State University-Meridian, Southern Pipe and Supply, Meridian Community College; and Avery.
Participating sponsors are Meridian Coca Cola Bottling Company, Newell Paper and Hilton Garden.