VIS teacher named First Year Teacher of the Year

Published 11:19 am Monday, June 13, 2011

Shelby County School District Superintendent Randy Fuller, left, presents the First Year Teacher of the Year award to Valley Intermediate School fourth-grade teacher Chris Penrose. (Contributed/Cindy Warner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A Valley Intermediate School teacher’s focus on each of his students, and his work to create a “fair and respectful” atmosphere in his classroom helped him to earn one of the Shelby County School District’s highest awards.

Chris Penrose, a fourth-grade teacher at VIS, earned the district’s First Year Teacher of the Year Award for the 2010-2011 school year. He received the award during the Shelby County School Board’s June 9 meeting.

“I would definitely say that I felt very proud and humbled,” Penrose said. “I felt honored just to be considered for the award in the first place. The fact that (VIS Principal) Mrs. (Dana) Payne even nominated me was humbling.”

Penrose entered the education field this year after serving as a deputy with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department for three years, and holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and early childhood education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

After Payne nominated Penrose, he was the unanimous choice of the award’s selection committee.

Payne said she nominated Penrose after he demonstrated a caring attitude toward each of the children in his class. She said Penrose helped some children thrive in school who had previously had behavior issues.

“Christopher Penrose has many attributes that make him an outstanding teacher, but more than anything, he has a heart for children,” Payne said.

“What stands out with Chris is he sends the message to all students that he cares about them as children before he teaches them as students,” Payne added. “The saying that is often quoted, ‘Kids don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care,’ should be posted on Mr. Penrose’s back, because that is exactly how he lives every day.”

Penrose said he was surprised how quickly he developed connections to his students. When it came time for him to pen an essay describing why he should win the award, Penrose said he wrote how he felt and hoped for the best.

“When I wrote the essay and let my wife read it, she cried. She had all the confidence that I would win,” Penrose said.

Penrose said, because of the diversity of the children in his class, he taught the children to respect each other and to try and understand each others’ points of view.

“My philosophy has been that everyone has the right to learn,” he said. “I will not tolerate anyone being disrespectful in my class.

“I believe that schools are a safe place, and a place where children can grow academically and socially,” Penrose added.