By Terri Ferguson Smith / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
A teacher's willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty has earned her the recognition of Golden Apple Teacher of the Month.
Bonnie Khan teaches high school math and history at Russell Christian Academy and was surprised during a school assembly recently to learn that she had been singled out for the award.
A parent whose son was tutored by Khan over the summer at no expense to their family was among two people nominating Khan.
Khan drove to the school each day with her own three children — her husband is stationed in Afghanistan — to tutor a young man who had lost some time during the year due to an illness.
His mother wrote: "Her children would sit for several hours while she and my son worked on math. I know of no other person who would voluntarily ask to do this, especially during their summer break … she was insistent not to receive monetary compensation , saying instead, 'This is my calling.'"
As her name was read aloud, students and teachers at the assembly cheered loudly. During the presentation of the Golden Apple Award, Khan 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.
Asked to describe her feelings when she realized she was getting the award, Khan said she was shocked.
"My heart started racing and it was like oh my goodness," Khan said. "I can't believe this is actually happening to me."
This is Khan's third year as a teacher, all of which she has spent at Russell Christian Academy. Before that she was a stay at home mom.
"It was a calling from God. I had begun working with my children's group on Sunday nights at church. It became heavier and heavier on my heart that God was calling me into education. Every time these children would move through the books of the Bible I would get so excited," Khan said. "It was such an accomplishment for them."
Khan said she prayed for six months about whether to go back to college and then decided that it was what she was supposed to do. It wasn't easy. While going to school she was also caring for an aunt with Alzheimer's disease, taking care of two children and expecting another.
"He saw me through it to the very end," Khan said. "Here I am today doing something I absolutely love. This is not a job. This is a calling. That I can work with children and help them succeed in their subject area."
At an early age, Khan was inspired by her high school algebra teacher, Cathy Caldwell.
"I see myself teaching like she does; going back to old school methods and ways, but she had a huge impact on my life because of her Christian character and the way she always wanted to go above and beyond to help every student in her classroom — and even those who weren't in her room. We would always go back to her during our Algebra Three class. 'We need some help.' She was always there with her door wide open."
Her advice to other teachers: "Follow your heart. God is going to lead you every step of the way. When you think something is not working just say, 'OK Lord, just get me through this. Follow your heart and trust in him.'"
Khan acknowledges that different students sometimes need different approaches to subject matter.
"I will reevaluate what I just said; I will work another problem for them and just explain it a little bit differently. When they get that 'aha' moment and they have a great big grin on their face, it does something within my heart," Khan said. "If they have gotten this they can move on to more and they can get more out of this lesson. I just keep pushing them.
Khan tries to push students who excel in math even further, she said.
"I want to know what I can do to challenge them, to get them to want to do more and take it to the next level," Khan said. "It's the most fantastic feeling that a teacher can go through every day."
To earn the approval through the Golden Apple just validates her belief that she is on the right track, she said.
"Winning this award means more than you will ever know. There are so many teachers who are so more deserving than I will ever be," Khan said. "Winning this award this morning just shows that I was following God's plan for my life. It makes me just want to try that much harder in the classroom, to go above and beyond every day."
Dr. Mark Allison, headmaster, agreed.
"I think it means that what we are doing is what God has instructed us to do. Mrs. Khan exemplifies what all of our teachers are doing here in providing quality education but also lifting up the Lord at the same time," Allison said. "That's our focus, that's our ministry. Ministry means that it's quality in every way, shape and form. This is what it demonstrates not only for Mrs. Khan but also for Russell Christian Academy.
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.