School looks to rev up teacher morale

By Brian Knox | Published Sunday, June 19, 2011

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Summer Surprise

SUMMER SURPRISE - DISD teachers of the year Kristi Smyers and Craig Jordan are driving new Camaros this summer. Messenger photo by Brian Knox

It’s kind of a tough time to be a teacher right now. With the constant talk about budget cuts, morale isn’t exactly at an all-time high.

That’s one of the reasons the Decatur school district recently tried to acknowledge the hard work their teachers do for students at their “End-of-Year Fiesta.”

And two teachers got quite the surprise.

Brian Knox

Brian Knox

School employees packed the high school theatre for the presentation of service pins, recognition of retirees and attendance awards. At the end of the program, the five teachers of the year from each campus were recognized, and then the elementary and secondary teachers of the year from that group were announced.

Carson Elementary teacher Kristi Smyers and McCarroll Middle School teacher Craig Jordan heard their names announced and walked onto the stage in front of a large projection screen with their names on it as fellow teachers and staff cheered.

In the past, that might have been all the recognition the teachers received, but this year, teacher-of-the-year coordinator Teela Watson wanted to make it extra special.

First, the two were presented with a $250 donation from the Decatur Education Foundation to spend on classroom supplies. Then Andrew Rottner with North Texas Bank presented the two with a $250 Visa gift card to spend however they want. Chili’s restaurant also donated dinner for two once a month for a year.

But the biggest surprise came at the end when Carey Williams with James Wood Motors informed them of something special waiting for them just outside the doors of the school. For the rest of the summer, the two would drive 2011 Chevy Camaros donated by the dealership.

The two didn’t even stick around for the closing remarks as they made a beeline to choose which color vehicle they would drive.

As teachers of the year, Smyers and Jordan will represent the district at the Region 11 competition in August. They will also be recognized on the field and ice at an upcoming Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars game, Watson said. If one or both were to win at the regional level, they would advance to state. And Watson thinks Decatur has a good shot at representation at the state level.

Kudos to the Decatur school district for recognizing that teachers deserved a little something special this year.

Long-serving teachers in the district were also recognized at the event. Twenty-year pins were presented to Tony Grimes, Sonia Lee, Sandy Nation, Nona Torres and Terri Ulberg. A 25-year pin was presented to Patti Prescott, and 30-year pins were presented to Lou Hitt and Melvin Taylor.

In addition to Smyers and Jordan, other teachers of the year at Decatur campuses included Cindy Berry at Decatur High School, Lisa Hale at Young Elementary and Amanda Teichelman at Rann Elementary. Each nominee had to submit a 13-page essay.

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