AMORY – Administrators from Monroe County School District’s campuses introduced their parents and teachers of the year during Feb. 9’s district school board meeting.

Hamilton Attendance Center Principal Michelle Stevens began the presentations by honoring Hamilton parent of the year Jeremy Hester.

“Jeremy helps a lot with our sports. He has always supported and encouraged our teachers on the academic end as well,” she said.

Stevens also recognized Hester’s wife, Melissa, for her support of his efforts.

“He is continually giving back. He has always gone above and beyond for our school,” she said.

Hamilton’s teacher of the year is music instructor Johanna Pepper, who is in her third year of teaching at Hamilton Attendance Center.

“She reaches every child in pre-K through 12th grade in our school,” Stevens said. “What we look for in a school like ours is someone who touches the life of every child and every teacher that she works with. She is very valuable to our school, and we appreciate her.”

Hatley Attendance Center Principal Kristy Keeton presented Cassie Morris as her school’s parent of the year.

“She has been president of the Hatley PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) for the past year and has done a fine job with that,” Keeton said.

Keeton listed some of Morris’ projects with the PTO, which included fundraiser drives, teacher appreciation days, arranging for the donation of a smart board for a second-grade classroom, playground improvements and food deliveries for staff.

“If we need something, we can count on her every time. She represents Hatley well,” Keeton said.

Keeton recognized math teacher Ben Stark, who has taught algebra for eight years at Hatley, as the school’s teacher of the year,.

“He’s a team player that is data- and student-driven. He can tell you the performance level of any of his students. He even records video lessons of himself if he’s out sick and can’t be in the classroom,” Keeton said.

Smithville Attendance Center Principal Chad O’Brian said having taught some of the teachers when they were students makes him feel old.

Smithville’s parent of the year, Amber Pearson, was also one of his students.

“We even got response from our football coaches nominating her for parent of the year. She’s heavily involved in our activities, and the staff was behind her nomination,” he said.

Computer technology teacher Elizabeth Sims was voted Smithville teacher of the year by her peers.

“Every school has to have a Ms. Sims – a person that is willing to go above and beyond. She is involved in anything and everything. She’s our technology person and chairs federal programs. If I have a problem in my office, chances are I check with her first. She wins this honor quite often,” O’Brian said.

Monroe County Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC) Director Jeff Brooks presented health science instructor April Holton as teacher of the year. She is in her fourth year of teaching at the CTEC and is certified in numerous specialties.

Brooks shared some comments from her peers as he made his presentation.

“She’s a true team player,” Brooks quoted. “She cares about her students, being willing to go and to do whatever is needed. Her influence on students is seen beyond the classroom.”

Advanced Learning Center (ALC) Principal Misty Powell presented visual arts teacher Kelly Young as its teacher of the year.

“She is a professional artist, and the Monroe County School District’s first art teacher. She has taught all ages and grades and served on several committees for the Mississippi Department of Education. She was selected in 2014 as Mississippi’s secondary art teacher of the year. She has been ALC’s teacher of the year twice and is also our district teacher of the year. When she’s not busy teaching, she browses estate sales and antique stores to find inspiration for her art,” Powell said.

In other business, the school board approved district superintendent Brian Jernigan’s recommendation of extending early release on Wednesdays to the end of the school year.

“We were hoping something would move along more quickly (with the COVID pandemic), but then these new strands from the U.K. and Africa occurred,” he said. “We still have about seven percent of our enrollment doing virtual learning, so our teachers have benefited from the extra time on Wednesdays to meet with the kids to assess and provide them the extra help they need. We feel it’s in the best interest of all for our distance learners to have that time to be in contact with teachers.”

Jernigan also distributed certificates of appreciation to the school board members in conjunction with School Board Appreciation Month, per a proclamation signed by Gov. Tate Reeves.

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