Chamber to celebrate outstanding students, educators

Published 1:11 pm Thursday, April 22, 2021

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Shelby County’s leading students and educators for the 2020-2021 school year will be recognized Wednesday, April 28 at 1 p.m. during the virtual Student & Educator of the Year program.

The Shelby County Chamber’s Eighth Annual Student & Educator of the Year is presented by America’s First Federal Credit Union. The program is co-sponsored by Vulcan Materials and The University of Montevallo.

Schools throughout Shelby County were invited to submit an “academic leader standout” and “career pathway standout” Student of the Year to represent their school. All of the nominees were evaluated on the following criteria: GPA, extracurricular activities and awards, a written response (essay) on their proposed career track or course of study and letters of recommendation. Each student was asked to attend a 15-minute interview with a panel of three judges.

Educator of the Year candidates were nominated in three categories—elementary, middle and high school—by their school principals. Three judges evaluated them on their philosophy of teaching, community involvement and recommendations from colleagues and school administrators, including a brief video where many showcased their exceptional classrooms.

All of the nominees will be recognized during the program, and receive a visit to their school and a yard sign celebrating their nomination. “Given that our 1,180-plus investor organizations are the future employers of these students, we think it’s an important step to recognize the excellence taking place each and every day in our classrooms throughout Shelby County,” Chamber president and CEO Kirk Mancer said.

The program will conclude with the announcement of eight recipients — two “Career Pathway Standout” students, two “Academic Leader Standout” students, one “Future Leader” student, one “Elementary School Educator of the Year,” one “Middle School Educator of the Year” and one “High School Educator of the Year.”  The five student recipients will receive a $1,000 cash award, and the three educator recipients will receive a $750 cash award.

“The five student recipients will receive these funds to continue their education and career development, and the three teachers will receive their awards for use in their classrooms at their discretion,” Pari Barzegari, the Chamber’s Director of Community and Career Development, shared.

To register for the virtual program, email

The 2020-2021 nominees are listed below in alphabetical order by school in each category:

Academic Leader Standout – Student of the Year Nominees:

Mason Mathias, Briarwood Christian School

Ashlyn Faith Jones, Calera High School

Emma Wolfe, Chelsea High School

Sydney Aldrich, Helena High School

Janie Gray, Montevallo High School

Peter Anthony Anella, III, Oak Mountain High School

Shaun O’Neil, Pelham High School

Ella Russell, Shelby County High School

Nathanael “Payton” Burch, Shelby County Career Technical Education Center

Emaline Morris, Thompson High School

Toni M. Lee, Vincent Middle High School


Career Pathway Standout – Student of the Year Nominees:

Anna Gardner Herren, Briarwood Christian School

Callie Weathers, Calera High School

Bryndie Hunsaker, Chelsea High School

Alex Franklin, Helena High School

Migdalia Lopez-Jimenez, Montevallo High School

John Berik Blanton, Oak Mountain High School

Yahir Ayala Aguirre, Pelham High School

Blake Robinson, Shelby County High School

Erik Barajas Shelby County Career and Technical Education Center

Harris Mitchell, Thompson High School

Kayla Maxwell, Vincent Middle High School


Elementary School Educator Nominees:

Kristi Brooks, Calera Elementary School

Sara Patrick, Calera Intermediate School

Keaghan Hinson, Chelsea Park Elementary School

Sarah Kendrick, Creek View Elementary School

Shanna Petty, Elvin Hill Elementary School

Mari Newton, Forest Oaks Elementary School

Patrick Riley, Helena Elementary School

Kaitlin McGuirk, Helena Intermediate School

Julie “Mauri” Crisler, Inverness Elementary School

Connie Kakoliris, Meadow View Elementary School

Kamie Jones, Montevallo Elementary School

Heather Braswell, Mt. Laurel Elementary School

Melanie Fitzmorris, Oak Mountain Elementary School

Kim Ethridge, Oak Mountain Intermediate School

Mary Beacham, Pelham Oaks Elementary School

Lucy Cournoyer, Pelham Ridge Elementary School

Kaleigh Lamar, Shelby Elementary School

Alexis Bulger, Thompson Intermediate School

Ginger Forsythe, Vincent Elementary School

Tiffany Collins, Wilsonville Elementary School


Middle School Educator Nominees:

Nina Frazier, Calera Middle School

Michelle Nivens, Chelsea Middle School

Brad McClaran, Columbiana Middle School

Chad Sorrells, Helena Middle School

Staci Egan, Linda Nolen Learning School

Matthew Williams, Montevallo Middle School

Carla Higginbotham, Oak Mountain Middle School

Jessica Lynn Brown, Pelham Park Middle School

Karen Evans, Thompson Middle School

Tamara Carter, Vincent Middle School


High School Educator Nominees:

Tamika Whitt-Wright, Calera High School,

Walter “Ryan” Adams, Chelsea High School

Anita Lewis, Helena High School

Jessica Gothard, Montevallo High School

Danny DuBose, Oak Mountain High School

Jessica Swann, Pelham High School

Celia Dozier, Shelby County Career Technical Educational Center

Marisol “Soli” Lilly, Shelby County High School

Douglas Crabb, Thompson High School

Sgt. Major Mary Kyser, Vincent High School