A pair of teachers who challenge their students with the wonders of science have been named Mobile County Public Schools’ Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year.
Chasity Collier of Dawes Intermediate and Tami May of Semmes Middle School were surprised in their classrooms with news of the awards last week. They were also recognized at the Mobile County Board of School Commissioners meeting on Monday and their applications will now be forwarded on to the statewide Teacher of the Year nomination process.
Collier teaches fifth-grade science at Dawes, where her students recognize her as an exemplary teacher. Fifth-grader Will Wallace said: “If I ever win an award for being a scientist and I am on TV, I am going to say I owe it all to Ms. Collier.”
Collier has served on district-wide textbook adoption committees, and has trained other teachers throughout Alabama and Florida in best practices. She is a state finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science and she helped her school receive a Lighthouse Blue Ribbon.
During her 19 years in education, she has been an AMSTI specialist and coach for the State of Alabama. She has also taught at Hankins Middle and Florence Howard Elementary.
Collier says the two most important days in someone’s life are the days they’re born and the day they realize why they’re here. Her “why” is to teach.
“I love coming to work,” she said. “I love what I get to do every single day and I love these kids.”
Dawes Principal Michele McClung described Collier as a “resourceful, creative, energetic, happy and passionate teacher who is innovative with her lessons while promoting student engagement, relevance, and rigor at a depth that is superior.”
May didn’t take a traditional route to the classroom, graduating from the University of South Alabama with a degree in biology before returning to school to become a teacher. She challenges her students with AMSTI and EYE inquiry-based activities.
“I don’t lie to my students,” she said. “I make the curriculum we cover seem like a task we are both tackling and if it’s going to be hard, I tell them the truth and then show them how to be successful. I make a point to respect them by speaking to them as they should speak to me. I never give them busy work. Many of the activities we perform are self-guided. I give them ample written instruction and tell them to go for it. When they begin to ask questions I encourage them to figure it out and pat them on the back when they realize the answer.
“They trust me to guide them. From that, they begin to trust themselves.”
May is a teacher mentor. She has served as a panel member at the National Science Foundation Conference in Washington D.C. and has presented at the iSTEM Conference at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. She is currently pursuing her National Board Certification.
Fellow teacher Rachel Mudrich calls her “truly Superwoman in my eyes.”
“From dissections to demonstrations, morning smiles and afternoon shimmies, there isn’t any other teacher in my eyes that is a better representation of Semmes Middle School, Mobile County, and the State of Alabama, and the profession of teaching than this teacher,” Mudrich said.