Hoover educators recognized during character awareness awards breakfast

Published 2:03 pm Monday, January 29, 2024

By NOAH WORTHAM | Managing Editor

HOOVER – School leaders and city representatives recently gathered together to honor and recognize three outstanding educators in Hoover City Schools.

During this year’s Robert F. Bumpus Teacher in the Trenches Character Awareness Awards Breakfast, the Finley Committee recognized three HCS teachers on Thursday, Jan. 25 at Hoover Randle Home and Gardens.

“The Finley Awards and our members are committed to sponsor and coordinate various programs to teach, promote and award good character for the youth and faculty of our schools,” said Aimee George, chairperson of the Finley Committee. “Coach Finley himself dedicated his life to education and human service which is why we are here to recognize three outstanding teachers to continually go above and beyond in the classroom.”

Each year, the Finley Committee selects one exceptional teacher from elementary, middle and high school levels to receive the prestigious honor each year. More than 40 teachers were nominated by their fellow teachers throughout the district in December for the award. Following nominations, three educators were selected.

“We know Hoover has many teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty supporting the schools and teaching their students,” said Dr. Chris Robbins, HCS chief learning officer and Finley Committee member. “Teachers spend their time and energy, mornings, days and nights, finding ways to positively impact Hoover kids and families and meet their needs. The Teacher in the Trenches Award was created to honor and recognize these tireless efforts of our teachers,”

Deer Valley Elementary School’s Librarian Raquel Sorkin was one of the three educators recognized with the award.

“I am grateful that my peers recognize school libraries and that my efforts are vital to a child’s education, but this is not an award for my personal accomplishments,” Sorkin said. “While I am honored to receive this award, it’s really an award for the many library superheroes at Deer Valley, like the dads who volunteer in Maker Spaces, the senior citizens who tutor students weekly and the many parents who shelve books. Also, my amazing assistant, Penni Koch, is an instrumental part of our program. This award inspires me even more to find ways to lead our school library in such a way that many superheroes are transforming the lives of Deer Valley students.”

Sorkin has served as an educator for 30 years and said she still loves to teach. In her nomination letter, Sorkin was described as going above and beyond the typical librarian role. She was recognized for implementing programs Maker Spaces and Grand Team. Space Makers focuses on getting male figures from the community involved with every child in the school, and the Grand Team incorporates grandparents in student achievement by inviting them to tutor children. Sorkin has also engaged the community to help renovate Deer Valley Elementary School’s library.

Dr. Melissa Capehart, the technology integration coach for Simmons Middle School was also recognized during the breakfast.

“As a technology coach, this award isn’t just about me; it’s about the amazing teachers, students, and administrators who have created a culture of learning where technology thrives,” Capehart said. ”It’s a testament to the power of collaboration, shared goals, and unwavering support. My role is to be a bridge, connecting people, resources and ideas to make sure every student has the opportunity to succeed in the digital age.”

Capehart has served as an educator for 11 years and said what she loves most about her job is the tangible impact she has on the entire school community.

In her nomination letter, she was considered deserving of the award due to her contributions as a school technology coach. During the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Capehart is said to have demonstrated exceptional resilience in supporting families, teachers, staff, administrators and student by helping them navigate the new digital classroom.

“I hope my teaching and tech coaching inspire students to develop critical thinking skills and embrace their natural curiosity to become lifelong learners,” she said. “I want them to see technology as a powerful tool for innovation and problem-solving and equip them with the skills to navigate its ever-changing landscape confidently. I also hope to be a positive representation of girls and minorities in tech.”

Exceptional Education Teacher Victoria Bye of Spain Park High School was also recognized during the Robert F. Bumpus Teacher in the Trenches Character Awareness Awards Breakfast.

“I am humbled and honored to receive this award,” she said. “ I am blessed to be surrounded by many wonderful colleagues in Hoover who work diligently every day to meet the needs of students.”

Bye has been teaching exceptional education for nine years and was described in her nomination letter as an outstanding mother, teacher and friend deserving of the recognition due to her undying love for her job and students.

Alongside being a mother of five herself, Bye is known for bringing all of her students and colleagues into her family as if they were her own. She is described as “one-of-a-kind” and strives to help others around her daily—noting what each student struggles with on assignments, creating a plan to help them understand the material and executing the plan. She is also described as patient around not only her students but her colleagues as well—utilizing her experience and knowledge to help guide them in the proper direction.

“Students are the best part of my job, and I teach the absolute best group of students at Spain Park,” she said. “They encourage me daily as they work diligently to learn, overcome challenges and find joy in every situation.”

Hoover mayor Frank Brocato attended the breakfast and expressed his gratitude to the selected educators who make an impact on the city’s school system.

“I love our schools and visit them often,” he said. “We want students to get an A in math, reading and writing, but I know every day your goal as a teacher is to build and teach character in those young people so they will have the things they need to be successful in life. It is all about character and being someone with integrity. I love the way we challenge our children and see the success each of them has when they leave this city and go on to be adults. Congratulations to all of our winners; you are very deserving.”

Hoover City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kevin Maddox was also in attendance and expressed his gratitude to the Finley Committee for its work.

“What an amazing school district we have,” he said. “I’m so honored to lead it (and) to have organizations like the Finley Committee that work tirelessly to focus on building (and) supporting character

Maddox also expressed his appreciation for the recipients of this year’s edition of the award by emphasizing the importance of the roles they play in Hoover City Schools.

“We have teacher self-contained working with special education students, we have a librarian (and) we have someone supporting our technology,” he said. “All of those roles are so critical in what we do. We could not do what we do without great support.”

This year, the Finley Committee decided to rename the award from the Teacher in the Trenches Character Awareness Award to the Robert F. Bumpus Teacher in the Trenches Character Awareness Award in memory of the late administrator.

“Mr. Bumpus worked in our school system during the rapid growth and implemented necessary changes while being considered a peacemaker,” George said. “He had a knack for knowing people’s strengths and guiding them to make their strengths shine. The Finley Committee is honored to recognize three teachers who exemplify the character traits mentioned and shown by coach Bob Finley and Mr. Bumpus.”

Maddox expressed his appreciation of the Teachers in Trenches program and said he loves the symbolism of its name.

“The word ‘trenches’ symbolizes so much to me when I think of education,” he said. “Trenches provide protection. Our teachers do that for our kids; they keep them safe, protect them, give them advice, try to guide them in the right direction and advocate for them. Our teachers are selfless. I’m thankful to have organizations like the Finley Committee that work tirelessly to focus on character and building character, and helping us to recognize outstanding teachers means so much. I’m honored to lead this amazing school district.”