Shelby County Schools honors top teachers

FROM STAFF REPORTS

NORTH SHELBY – Shelby County Schools’ top teachers across the district were recently honored at the annual Teachers of the Year event, held Dec. 3 at Oak Mountain High School.

The event was hosted by the Shelby County Schools Education Foundation.

The top three Teacher of the Year winners from the elementary, middle and high school grade spans were honored, along with the winners from every school in the district.

The overall Teacher of the Year winners were Vickey Glover Bailey from Chelsea Park Elementary, Charlsie Wigley from Chelsea Middle and Amanda Bittinger from Oak Mountain High School.

Bailey has been teaching for 40 years, 26 of which have been with the Shelby County School District. She has spent the past 13 years at Chelsea Elementary and Chelsea Park Elementary where she currently is the gifted resource teacher.

She serves in numerous leadership roles, including the STEM Committee, Gifted Education Product Development Leadership Team, Alabama Association of Gifted Children Gifted Awareness Month, and as the Shelby County Schools Elementary Literary Magazine Coordinator. She also teaches robotics after-school at Chelsea Park.

“I have always enjoyed working with children of all ages. No matter which age group, from kindergarten to high school, the students were placed first,” Bailey wrote in her nomination essay to the Teacher of the Year committee. “I consider this as one of my chief accomplishments. Focusing on their many, varied, and unusual needs and encouraging the student to never give up on their dreams is my contribution to the future. Even after teaching 40 years, I have specific stories of the overlooked, underachieving, and unnoticeable students. These stories all relate to students realizing their potential and gifts.”

Wigley has been teaching for eight years, with 2.5 years in Shelby County Schools. She currently teaches seventh grade English Language Arts at Chelsea Middle School.

She serves in many leadership roles, including as the CSI School Culture Representative, School Coordinator for LEAD (advisory), Library Committee, sponsor for the 7th and 8th grade Junior United Nations of Alabama (JUNA) Team, and the sponsor for CHMS Cares, a student-led kindness club.

Wigley says she didn’t always want to become a teacher but believes now that it is what she was meant to do and finds fulfillment in teaching her students.

“I have learned quite a bit about teaching, preparation, and the many paths that life’s journey can lead you down. What I believe I have learned the most is the little quirks about my students that make them who they are and will make them great leaders in the community in a few short years,” Wigley said.  “I believe my greatest contribution to education is my students. It is my great privilege in this life to impart some bit of knowledge to them.”

Bittinger has been teaching for 22 years, 16 of which have been spent at Oak Mountain High School. She teaches 11th and 12th grade Honors Precalculus and AP Calculus AB and BC.

Bittinger serves in numerous capacities of leadership at her school, including Advanced Mathematics Team Coach, Mentor Program Coordinator, Member of the School Improvement Team, Precalculus and Calculus Learning Team Lead Teacher, and Mu Alpha Theta Sponsor.

Bittinger says she owes her drive to become a teacher and her love of mathematics to her high school mathematics teacher, Ned Lowery.

“I was told in third grade that I would never be good at math, and I took this to heart and was a self-fulfilling prophecy; until Mr. Lowery saved me,” Bittinger says. “He wasn’t even my math teacher, but he saw me struggling one day in the library with my homework, and he came over and helped. I had never had a teacher who cared as much about me or what I was learning, and his behavior made an impact on me. I was lucky enough to have him as my math teacher my junior and senior year.”

“I was given the confidence and skills in high school that was necessary to compete with people from much better backgrounds in college. I not only owe my teaching ability and passion for mathematics to him, but I also owe the life that I lead to Ned Lowery,” Bittinger says.

Other elementary school winners included: Nesha Davis, Calera Elementary; Kailey Jones, Calera Intermediate; Misty Howard, Elvin Hill Elementary; Wendy K. Cespedes, Forest Oaks Elementary; LaShaun Williams Brown, Helena Elementary; Reese Portword, Helena Intermediate; Pamela Taylor, Inverness Elementary; Abbeba Makunda Brooks-Tait, Linda Nolen Learning Center; Kendra Janyce Robbins, Montevallo Elementary; Heather Butler, Mt Laurel Elementary; Sara Elise Askew, Oak Mountain Elementary; Shannon Vaughn, Oak Mountain Intermediate; Angela Harrison Binkerd, Shelby Elementary; Katherine B. Gentry, Vincent Elementary; and Carlie Newman, Wilsonville Elementary.

Other middle school winners included: Kerry Jeffries, Calera Middle; Mimi E. Glisson, Columbiana Middle; Niurca Lockhart, Helena Middle; Virginia Thomas, Montevallo Middle; Stacie Gilmore, Oak Mountain Middle; and Jo Leigh Harlow, Vincent Middle.

Other high school winners included: Kaylie Wray Mitchell, Calera High; Monica Gongora Gordon, Chelsea High; Spring McKinney, Helena High; Beth House, Montevallo High; William J. Sherrill, New Direction; Rex Horton, Shelby County Career Technical Educational Center; Michael J. Kantaris, Shelby County High; and Ryan Halla, Vincent High.