Teachers voted best in class; Sutton, ‘heartbeat of campus,’ top secondary teacher

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, June 14, 2014

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Although the givers may not have intended them as such, Hassie Sutton, who was to be married today, received a couple of early wedding gifts.

Last week, the McCarroll Middle School coach and science instructor was named Decatur ISD’s secondary teacher of the year.

Sweet Ride

SWEET RIDE – As one of the perks for being named the Decatur ISD Secondary Teacher of the Year, Hassie Sutton gets to drive a brand-new Chevrolet Camaro for the summer. Sutton is a teacher and coach at McCarroll Middle School. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Along with the accolade, Sutton received a $250 Visa gift card, courtesy of North Texas Bank; $250 for supplies for the classroom from iCopy; dinner for two for a year at Chili’s – and the use of a new car.

The brand-new Chevrolet Camaro will transport Sutton and her husband to-be, Marcus Grgurich, to their honeymoon in Tennessee.

“I asked if there was a mileage restriction and if I could take it out of state,” Sutton said. “[Carey Williams, executive manager of James Wood Motors] said, ‘Oh, yeah!’ Tennessee is not that far.’ … It was awesome. It was so nice, what everybody did. It was so wonderful. They really made you feel special.”

Ironically, making people feel special may have been the very notion that helped Sutton land the accolade.

A committee of teachers and staff at McCarroll nominated Sutton and two others for the honor at the campus level.

All three submitted an essay, from which a winner was selected.

Sutton’s essay moved up to the district level, where an elementary teacher was also recognized. (See related story on the elementary teacher on page 1A.)

“There were many, many others in my book that I felt were deserving, so I’m not sure why they chose me,” Sutton said with a laugh. “I just love what I do. I really have a passion for it, and I love the kids.”

The four-year teacher, who’s spent the past two with Decatur ISD and the two previous at Hico, coaches cross country, track and basketball.

“I love being able to coach the kids on the initial passion for sports and athletics, and teaching them that it’s fun to work hard,” she said. “If you’re willing to work hard, make sacrifices and do your best, then you’re going to succeed. You might not be the best, but you’re going to be your best. That’s what I have fun doing, is sharing that excitement and enthusiasm.”

Off the running course and basketball court, Sutton impacts the lives of kids as a seventh-grade science teacher.

“I like to relate things our kids go through every day and make it relevant to them in the classroom,” she said. “We deal with science every day, and that’s what I tell them the first day of class. Even if you sealed yourself in a box and put yourself away from everything, science is still going on. You can kind of get away from history and kind of get away from English and math. But you can never get away from science.”

However, the biggest difference she hopes she makes isn’t in the science lab or gym.

“I want to be somebody they can always go to and know cares about them,” Sutton said. “I was blessed to come from a wonderful family, and it was an eye-opening experience for me to learn that’s not the case for everyone.

“I know we’re all brought up differently, but those first few kids that didn’t have a supportive family or a house to live in, that was a shock.

“So really, I just focus on showing the kids that they’re loved. They may not have a good home life, but here at school they have someone who loves and cares about them and wants the best for them.”

That, administrators say, is what landed her this honor.

“She is one of the heartbeats of this campus,” McCarroll Principal Dewayne Tamplen said. “She does great with the kids, and it’s obvious how much she cares about them and wants them to do well. We are a lucky campus to have her.”


TOP TEACHER – Decatur ISD recognized its advanced academics coordinator, Danielle Scroggins, as the Elementary Teacher of the Year. Scroggins has also served the district as a science and math teacher at Carson Elementary, the campus that nominated her for the award. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

As an environmental science student at Texas A&M University, Danielle Scroggins never saw herself as a teacher – much less an elementary teacher, and certainly not a teacher of the year.

This year, Scroggins is all of those things.

Earlier this month Decatur ISD named the advanced academics coordinator its elementary teacher of the year.

In that position, the 10-year veteran coordinates higher-level classes at the middle and high schools and teaches gifted-and-talented students from kindergarten through fifth grade.

“This was the first year I taught anything younger than an 11-year-old,” she said. “It was a learning experience. If you had told me when I was in college that I would ever be teaching kindergarten GT, I would’ve laughed at you. It was nothing on my radar. It’s just the way that things have happened.

“Much like her becoming a teacher.”

Although she was interested in policy and had aspirations to work for the Natural Resources Conservation Services or the Environmental Protection Agency, Scroggins accrued several credits in education as she went through college. So, she decided to become certified to teach.

After completing an internship with Congressman Ruben Hinojosa in Washington, D.C., Scroggins returned to Texas in the fall of 1997.

“I was all in to be in public policy,” she said. “Then I came back and did my student teaching in the spring and changed my mind. I was all in to being a teacher.”

Scroggins explained her interest in science was piqued by a visitor in fifth grade.

“At that time, we lived in California, and Sea World came and gave us a presentation,” she said. “From that point on I was in love with science and marine biology, and for the longest time that’s what I wanted to pursue. I wanted to make a difference in that realm.

“But when I did my student teaching, my focus shifted. I realized that as a teacher, I could make the difference in the lives of all of these kids. I could be the person in fifth grade who made an impact in my life.

“So I started looking for jobs as a teacher, and that’s what I’ve done ever since.”

Upon graduating from A&M, she took a job in Coppell, where she taught seventh-grade science and high school biology.

Then she stayed home for six years to be with her kids – now 13, 11 and 8 years old.

She joined Southlake-Carroll ISD, teaching seventh-grade science for a year before joining DISD in 2010.

She taught fifth-grade science for two years, then added math to her teaching load for a year – all at Carson Elementary – before being named to the district-wide position for this school year.

“It was hard at the beginning,” Scroggins said of the new position. “As a teacher, you get on TEA to look up your TEKS, look up your standards. You get the district curriculum and you figure out what you’re going to do. So that’s what I did when I got this job.

But Scroggins found no standards by which to abide.

“There’s guidelines for what kinds of qualities of a GT student you should try to enhance, but there’s no ‘you need to teach this,’ ‘you need to teach that,'” she said. “I was a little bit overwhelmed.”

Instead of giving up, she embraced the opportunity.

“I had a lot of teaching freedom,” she said. “I love project-based learning, so that’s how I geared my class … I really got to teach the way I love to teach.

“By the end of the year, I kind of had a handle on it,” she added with a laugh. “When I sit down and look at TEKS and standards and activities, especially with all the technology and 21st-century skills, it makes me excited to just try something new.”

Colleagues who nominated her for the teacher of the year award say that innovative attitude is what makes Scroggins stand out.

“Her enthusiasm and excitement for learning is contagious,” said Stephanie Quarles, principal of Carson Elementary – the school that nominated Scroggins for the award. “She wants every student to feel success and has a way of making everyone feel that they are important.

“She brings a sense of confidence and empowerment to our students, and they feel that she truly believes in each of them. Danielle has a vast understanding of fun, creative ways for students to become knee-deep in whatever concept she is teaching.

“After spending just a short amount of time in one of Danielle’s classes the students feel like they are the best students on earth.”

That may not have been on her radar, but it’s quite an accomplishment.

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