Kristal Lawrence, Amber Willis named quarterfinalists for America’s Favorite Teacher

Published 9:52 pm Wednesday, May 8, 2024

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By NOAH WORTHAM | Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Two Alabaster City Schools educators have made it to the quarterfinals for America’s Favorite Teacher.

Amber Willis of Thompson Middle School and Kristal Lawrence of Meadow View Elementary School have made it to the quarterfinals for the America’s Favorite Teacher competition after being nominated.

“(I am) extremely surprised and humbled,” said Willis who works as a sixth grader math and honors math teacher at TMS. “I still to this day am not quite sure who nominated me but just feel very humbled and surprised to have made it this far.”

Throughout the competition, teachers who are nominated from across the U.S. compete through voting in multiple rounds. Teachers have a link on the website that provides an overview of who they are and the opportunity for others to vote for them and support them

“I have felt blessed with the support of the community and people that have voted,” said Lawrence who works as a third grade teacher at MVES. “My school has been supportive. I was a little surprised to be this far honestly.”

Now, in the quarterfinals, Willis and Lawrence have made it to the top 1 percent of teachers in the competition.

“I just feel blessed,” Lawrence said. “The support just lets me know that people care about what I do and the impact that I’ve been able to make. Even some of the students—because I’ve been teaching so long—have reached out to me wanting to vote. That just makes me feel like I made a difference and an impact in their lives. So, just getting this far is a win for me. Even if I don’t make it to the very end.”

The single winner of the national competition will be treated to a $25,000 prize, a trip to Hawaii and an appearance in Reader’s Digest.

Willis shared that she has a specific use in mind on how she would use the funds should she win the national accolade.

“Since this is something to do with my students, I don’t feel like that’s my money, so my goal with the prize money is to do scholarships for next year,” she said.

Each year the TMS sixth graders go to the Disney Imagination Campus to learn behind-the-scenes details about the rides and about the technology that Disney uses.

“Alabaster is a Title I school district (and) a lot of students can’t afford to participate in opportunities like that, so I want to use the prize money for scholarships for students next year,” Willis said.

As a mother of four, Lawrence shared that, in the event she won the distinction of America’s Favorite Teacher, she would utilize the funds to further the education of her children as well as herself.

Lawrence also spoke on what continues to drive her as an educator and teacher at Meadow View Elementary School as she continues to work with small children.

“I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to be a teacher from the time I was little,” she said. “And just being able to invest in these kids’ lives and seeing their growth from the beginning of the school year until the end. It’s motivating for me.”

She said she loves to see the aha moment when a student finally grasps a lesson that she is trying to teach them.

“I think that’s what drives me (is) when I get to see the changes in these kids,” Lawrence said. “It’s not just academically, but also in their social and emotional learning and just how we become a family throughout the year. And so, that’s why I wake up and do it every day, to push them and have them reach higher goals themselves so that they can be successful when they leave elementary school.”

As the teacher of a subject that many students tend to struggle with—Willis finds motivation each day in helping her students grow, not only in knowledge, but confidence as well.

“A lot of times, by the time students get to middle school, at some point they told themselves they’re not good at math or they don’t know how to do it or someone, unfortunately, might have told them that math is not your strongest subject,” Willis said. “My goal is to provide them with opportunities so that they can be successful and hopefully build their confidence.”

She said that sometimes she feels like what she teaches is 90 percent confidence and 10 percent math.

“Building relationships with the students, building their competence and helping them believe in themselves as much as I believe in them,” she said.

Voting for the quarterfinals in the America’s Favorite Teacher competition will continue until Thursday, May 16 at 9 p.m.

Those interested in voting for Amber Willis for America’s Favorite Teacher may visit

Those interested in voting for Kristal Lawrence as America’s Favorite Teacher may visit