Before a standing-room-only crowd Friday in Sherman High School auditorium, Sherman ISD recognized and honored its top employees for the recently concluded 2013-2014 school year. Hundreds of teachers, students and community members turned out to support their school staff.
“We are very fortunate to have these talented teachers in SISD,” said Superintendent Al Hambrick. “All of our teachers at every level have played a part in creating successful students.”
The program began by recognizing teachers and faculty who have served the district for extended lengths of time, from a few dozen employees who reached the five-year mark this year to the forty-year marks of Kathryn Brown, Leonard Polk and Robert Watson.
After honoring the staff members who have retired over the past year, the awards began in earnest. Employee of the year, new teacher of the year, volunteer of the year, team of the year and elementary and secondary teachers of the year each brought with them a plaque and a $500 prize.
New teacher of the year was awarded to Amy Gardner, a fourth grade teacher at Crutchfield Elementary. Assistant Superintendent Tyson Bennett said, Gardner “is always excited to start a new day and treats each student with respect and fairness.”
Bennett said Randi Evans, an instructional aide at Jefferson Elementary, was “a person that always goes the extra mile for our students and staff” and “is always willing to do anything to help.” For that, she was awarded employee of the year.
Mary Hamilton was named volunteer of the year for her service as a foster grandparent at Fred Douglass Early Childhood Center. Hamilton, Bennett said, is “a true volunteer who would give of her time regardless of the challenge or the obstacle.”
“Her work ethic and positive attitude is a model for all to emulate,” he added.
Together, Doretta Kinnison, Melissa Herndon, Adrienne Fugett and Misty Lichnovsky make up the seventh grade math professional learning community team at Piner Middle School. They were SISD’s team of the year because “each team member is committed to the success of their students,” Bennett said.
Rather than share their $500 prize, the money for team of the year will go to the math department at Piner.
The two most coveted awards of the morning were elementary and secondary teacher of the year. Not only are they the top honor for SISD teachers, the awards place their recipients in the running for Region 10 teacher of the year. The region which covers most of North Central Texas.
Todd Gruhn, who teaches physics and computer science at SHS, was named secondary teacher of the year. This teacher’s classroom is a learning community where questions and solutions from students are always welcome,” said Bennett.
“It’s a pretty surreal feeling,” said Gruhn of receiving the award. He credits his good rapport with students and his ability to adapt to whatever challenges are thrown at him.
Gruhn said he is grateful for the award, but is not a big fan of the spotlight. “But still, it’s nice every now and then,” he added.
The award on the elementary level went to Sherri Shelton, a fourth grade teacher at Sory Elementary. “I’m just speechless,” she said. “I’m very honored. … I have a real passion for children.”
That passion, according to Bennett, led Shelton to be “a servant in so many ways” and “a master teacher in every sense of the word.”
“(SISD staff members) do such hard work in every category and on every campus,” said SISD Board member Kiki Osterman. “It’s so hard to choose just one of them in any category. They are all just wonderful.”