By Lorna Benson
WEAKLEY COUNTY (April 2) — A recent announcement from the Tennessee Department of Education brought Weakley County Schools administration a welcomed change of subject from dealing with all things pandemic to celebrating the accomplishments of local teachers.
Two Weakley County educators, Lauren Campbell and Tori Shepherd, have been recognized as West Tennessee Regional Teachers of the Year. The selection process begins at the school level when a teacher is nominated by their peers. Building level candidate applications are then reviewed by a district level committee charged with determining which educators will represent the entire school system for the state level designation of Teacher of the Year.
In order to be eligible for consideration, a Tennessee Teacher of the Year candidate must be a full-time certified pre-K–12 teacher who works in a state-accredited Tennessee public school; must be in good standing; must spend the majority of the school day in direct instruction to students; have a minimum of three years of experience as a teacher in Tennessee public schools and have a track record of exceptional gains in student achievement.
Lauren Campbell is a kindergarten teacher at Martin Primary School. A resident of Martin, she has worked at MPS continuously throughout her eight-year teaching career. She has a BS in Education from the University of Tennessee at Martin and an MS in Education from Arkansas State University where she also achieved the designation of being an Educational Specialist.
“I’m very humbled,” Campbell said upon receiving word of her selection as a West Tennessee Regional Teacher of the Year “My dream as a little girl was always that I’d be able to teach at Martin Primary; I just never imagined I’d go this far.”
The seasoned kindergarten teacher added that she had lots of help honing her skills.
“I definitely didn’t do this on my own though, this was possible because of my teammates and all those who’ve mentored me through the years,” she said.
Pre-K- 5 Supervisor of Instruction, Terri Stephenson, was quick to congratulate Campbell on the achievement, “I was thrilled when I learned of Ms. Lauren’s accomplishment, but I wasn’t surprised. Ms. Lauren will represent Weakley County and the northwest region well as she moves further in this competition.”
Equally excited at learning she had been recognized as a regional teacher of the year is Sharon School Teacher Tori Shepherd who was singled out to represent Weakley County Schools for grades 5-8.
Shepherd, a graduate of the University of Memphis with a Bachelor of Arts in Education, makes a short daily commute from her residence in Greenfield to Sharon School where she has taught 6th grade social studies and 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts throughout her 10-year career. In addition to her classroom responsibilities Shepherd also works in the after school tutoring program, is the school’s BETA club sponsor, and is a Mentor Teacher.
“Being recognized with his honor means so very much to me,” Shepherd said. “However, this isn’t the labor of one but a labor of many. I wouldn’t be who I am without the love and guidance I feel daily from most importantly God, my family, my Sharon School family, and last but certainly not least my students — all who do more for me than they probably realized. I am so blessed in this life and am proud to be able to share those blessings with all students I encounter.”
Shepherd’s Supervisor of Instruction and former Principal, Donald Ray High, had lots of praise for this middle school teacher, “Tori is an exceptional teacher, not only at Sharon School, but in our district. Tori is always looking for ways to better her craft and is always willing to share her strategies with others. Serving as Tori’s principal for many years, I’ve witnessed firsthand the relationships she builds with her students and how her students would do anything for her in the classroom. They respect her and love being in her class.”
The two teachers now advance to the final phase of the selection process which will result in the naming of the state level Teacher of the Year.