Montevallo, Calera, Chelsea educators receive awards during inaugural Character Education Award Banquet

Published 5:36 pm Wednesday, May 1, 2024

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By NOAH WORTHAM | Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Three Shelby County Schools educators were chosen for awards out of 12 nominees for their exemplary character and service during the inaugural Character Education Award Banquet.

The first edition of the Character Education Award banquet, which was hosted by the Boy Scouts of America, took place on Tuesday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Shelby County Instructional Services Center in Alabaster.

“I strongly believe that the values and skills youth learn in scouting works hand in hand with our goals as educators,” said Katherine Metcalf who served as emcee during the event. “I think it’s no coincidence that the Shelby County district’s motto, ‘prepared for the journey’—fits well with the scouting motto, ‘be prepared’ because I would think all of us in the room are in the business of preparing young people for life.”

During the event, attendees were treated to a dinner by Joe’s Italian as well as a presentation of the colors by Troop 1120 before the awards recognition.

During the event, three educators were chosen from a list of 12 to be recipients of the Elbert K. Fretwell Outstanding Educator Award. The award was developed by the Boy Scouts of America and named after Fretwell who was a professor of education at Columbiana University and later became the second chief scout executive of the BSA.

“The award is to be presented to those who improve students’ lives by proactively modeling and teaching scouting values, which include character building and service,” said Kay Dummier council cub scout committee chairman.

The first educator to receive the Elbert K. Fretwell Outstanding Educator Award at the banquet was Nakiea Burney of Montevallo Elementary School. Burney was nominated by another teacher at MES and a parent.

“She improved the culture of our school daily with her positive attitude and award-winning kindness,” Dummier said in reading Burney’s nomination. “Regardless of the situation she remained steadfast and positive. For that, she is an exemplar for new teachers and students alike.”

Tamika Whitt-Wright of Calera High School was the second educator to receive the award during the banquet after obtaining four nominations from students at CHS.

“She is not only a teacher at Calera High School but a leader and a role model for all students,” read Whitt-Wright’s nomination from a student at CHS. “She helps prepare students for school and life outside of school. She has taught me many life lessons, for example, how to work with other students in workplace setting and how to be a professional.”

The final educator to receive the award was Russell Bentley of Forest Oaks Elementary School who was nominated by a community member.

“He’s always willing to help and encourage everyone,” read Bentley’s nomination. “(He) loves students and is simply the go to person that everyone knows they can count on. He’s one-of-a-kind, a genuine blessing to all who know him. He maintains the school and keeps it in tip-top shape and school administrators describe him as the backbone of their school.”

The following is a complete list of Shelby County Schools teachers who were nominated for the Elbert K. Fretwell Outstanding Educator Award at the banquet:

  • Jessi Adams – Chelsea Park Elementary School
  • Josh Price – Helena High School
  • Dustin Cleckler – Shelby County High School
  • Brittany Crowfoot – Forest Oaks Elementary School
  • Ariel Moore – Chelsea Park Elementary School
  • Glenda Powell – Inverness Elementary School
  • Crystal Curtis – Elvin Hill Elementary School
  • Jacie Davidson – Helena Elementary School
  • Nakiea Burney – Montevallo Elementary School
  • Tamika Whitt-Wright – Calera High School
  • Kim Youngblood – Inverness Elementary School
  • Russell Bentley – Forest Oaks Elementary School

After the winners of the award were announced, SCS Superintendent Lewis Brooks provided a few remarks.

“Each and every one of you as teachers or individuals that work in your school—whether you’re a principal, maintenance technician, what have you—you are part of shaping the future,” Brooks said. “I hope that we spend time as citizens recognizing the impact that teachers have on the world.”

Brooks remarks on the impact that teachers have connected directly to the keynote address of the banquet which was delivered by former All-American running back for the University of Alabama Trent Richardson.

“I was in seventh grade and I fell asleep on my desk—I had my head down and I heard this big old (thump),” Richardson said. “(My teacher hit the desk) with a science book, I’ll never forget that green book, it was real thick. She slammed it on my desk. I woke up and she said, ‘What are you going to do when you get older?’”

Richardson said he told her that he was going to be on the television playing football and she said “I’d love to see that” before leaving him with a lifechanging warning.

“’You keep on, you’re going to be here again and I’ll see you next year and the year after that,” Richardson said. “At the time I didn’t get it.”

Years later he ran into the very same teacher again and he thanked her for the small moment because it embodied a powerful lesson to him.

“I jumped up and hugged her neck,” Richardson said. “She said, ‘What are you hugging me for?’ I said,’ You don’t know what you did for me.’”

Richardson highlighted how small, seemingly forgettable moments by teachers can have a positive lasting impact on students’ lives.

Jeff Honea II with the event’s title sponsor, Chelsea Apothecary, spoke on the opportunity to support the event.

“It is a privilege to be able to support our local community, and we will continue to support The Boy Scouts of America,” Honea said. “I was especially excited to be part of an event that honors distinguished educators in our county. I look forward to seeing this event grow year after year and garner more local business support.”

Senior District Executive at the Greater Alabama Council Tyler Powell delivered the closing remarks of the event and expressed his gratitude to all that made the banquet possible.

“We’re all here for the same reason and that reason is to leave our mark on young people and to prepare them to make moral and ethical choices over the course of their lifetime,” he said.