TUPELO • Lawhon Elementary School second grade English Language Arts teacher Leslie Tally has been named Mississippi's 2021 Teacher of the Year.
The Mississippi Department of Education made the announcement during a virtual ceremony on Thursday.
Tally was named Tupelo Public School District's 2021 Teacher of the Year in December 2020 and was selected to represent Congressional District 1 in the state Teacher of the Year program earlier this month.
Learning that she'd earned the same accolade at the state level was an "amazing, exhilarating, wonderful" honor.
"It's just the ultimate appreciation for the work that you do — appreciation from your peers and your community," Tally said. "As a teacher, the greatest feedback and gift you can receive is knowing that you're making a difference."
Tally was inspired to become a teacher by her father, a 47-year educator. She believes by first setting an example as a learner herself, will she enable each student to view their education as more than just a succession of skills, standards or grade levels. It's a lifelong pursuit of learning.
“I am firmly convinced God placed me in this place as an educator,” Tally said. “I’m so blessed to teach alongside incredible teachers. I’m grateful to the Tupelo Public School District for its unyielding support of teachers, students and community. Lawhon has provided me incredible support. Without their support, I would not be in the situation I am today.”
Tally's passion lies in advancing literacy education and opportunities for students and teachers across the state, something she's been naturally drawn to in her 10 years as an educator.
While working with students who struggled with reading, she noticed a tremendous need for teachers who are well-versed and knowledgeable about literacy issues and how to address them.
Tally is National Board Certified and a Teacher of Distinction recipient. Two years ago as a second grade teacher at Mooreville Elementary School, she was named 2019 Lee County Schools Teacher of the Year.
As Teacher of the Year, Tally will be asked to share expertise through various presentations, professional development and activities for the improvement of education. She will also receive a $5,000 stipend.
Tally will go on to represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
Also on Thursday, the state department of education named Tupelo Middle School Principal Mark Enis Mississippi's Alternate Administrator of the Year.
He will take over for the 2021 Administrator of the Year Mandy Lacy, principal of DeLisle Elementary in the Pass Christian School District, should she be unable to fulfill her duties for any reason.