PCS teachers receive Teacher Appreciation Awards

By NATHAN HOWELL | Staff Writer 

PELHAM — During the week of May 3-7, the Pelham City Schools Foundation sponsored its third annual Teacher Appreciation Awards by recognizing educators from each of the schools and giving them a gift for their hard work.

Winners of the awards include Justin Foster from Pelham High School, Katelyn Greer from Pelham Oaks Elementary, Kathryn Grimes from Pelham Park Middle School and Ashley Wilks from Pelham Ridge Elementary.

Every year the PCS Foundation asks for nominations for teachers who go above and beyond to provide education to students, especially during such a tricky time for educators. PCS Foundation President Jim Sumpter said that recognizing teachers, especially during National Teacher Appreciation Week, was very important to their values.

“Our core values are teacher excellence, community pride and student preparedness,” Sumpter said. “These awards fall into the teacher excellence category. We opened up nominations a couple weeks back and had a tremendous response from parents, students, other educators and the community with those. We gave out the four awards to one teacher from each school. They got a certificate recognizing their achievements and an Amazon gift card.”

Throughout the last year, teachers have been challenged to learn new skills and techniques for teaching virtually, doing hybrid instruction and the general challenges that come with teaching during a pandemic.

“We received nominations from parents who had students in the elementary schools that said that the teacher they nominated took the extra time during those virtual learning classes to communicate with them and make the process as easy as possible,” Sumpter said. “In the middle and high school, we had nominations from students who spoke first hand about their experience with the teachers.”

Sumpter said that they wanted to give out the gift cards so that teachers can have some extra money to use on themselves instead of classroom supplies, with the hope that they will use Amazon Smile, which donates some proceeds to nonprofits to support the PCS Foundation through their purchases.

Kathryn Grimes said the award meant a great deal to her, especially considering the challenges of the past year.

“When you have your students, current and former, recognize you as someone that has made an impact on them, it really is such an honor and it touches your heart. Sometimes words just can’t describe how it feels to have something like that,” Grimes said.

Teaching during a pandemic has created a unique set of challenges that has tested the ability of teachers to learn and adapt to changes.

“I feel like technology has always been a part of my classroom,” Grimes said. “But this year really pushed my boundaries and made me think outside of the box. I teach Spanish, so I had to be creative to teach the students that were learning virtually. I feel like that opened me up to be a better teacher and increased my desire to reach all of my students.”

Most of all, she credits the incredible environment in Pelham City Schools and the city in general as a great system of support and encouragement.

“I am just truly grateful to work where I am at. We have a great community of parents and I work with a great staff here,” Grimes explained. “It is such an honor to have been looked at this way by my students.”

The foundation raises money throughout the year to provide gifts like these and support to the schools in the city. Sumpter said they would be holding their Night of Purpose fundraising event later this year to help support that mission.