By Pete Zamplas- Megan Whitaker Ford of Flat Rock Middle School is the newly-named teacher of the year in Henderson County Public Schools, which also honored each of its 23 schools’ teacher of the year at a recent luncheon.
The event was in Hendersonville Country Club, on May 24. Teachers of the year were chosen by their schools in April, and also honored April 30 at the Henderson County Education Foundation’s Education Hall of Fame banquet.
That Education Celebration Presented by Advent Health was at Jeter Mountain Farm. AdventHealth, formerly Park Ridge Hospital, is also naming sponsor of the Teacher of the Year 2019 Award Luncheon.
The 2019 teacher of the year for each high school is: Lisa Delaney (Career Academy), Tyler Honeycutt (Early College), Bethany Croese (East Henderson), Chele Bradley (Hendersonville), Sue Moon (North Hend.), and Vanessa Price (West).
Teachers of the year in middle school are: Richard Bowerman (Apple Valley), Megan Ford (Flat Rock), Anne Boyette (Hendersonville), and Maggie DeCorah (Rugby).
Elementary honorees are: Caroline Moser (Atkinson), Alyssa Gangemi (Bruce Drysdale), Lauren Matoian (Clear Creek), Jessica Feahr (Dana), Anna Whitaker (Edneyville), Beth Swanger (Etowah), Maria Gass (Fletcher), Stephanie Patton (Glenn C. Marlow), Lindsey Skidmore (Hendersonville), Debbie Lanier (Hillandale), Michelle Dinardo (Mills River), Angela Goodman (Sugarloaf), and Alicia Westbrook (Upward).
“You bring out creativity” in students, Supt. Bo Caldwell told the honored teachers. “You extend a hand, open a mind, and touch a heart.”
Megan Ford was awarded $1,000 from AdventHealth, a ring by Jostens, a plaque, and will go expenses-paid to a state education conference.
Ford teaches mathematics and science, in FRMS. She started there nine years ago. It is her first teaching job. Ford attended the school, and graduated from East Henderson High School.
“I decided to teach to be a part of the community that made me who I am,” Ford stated. “I want to be the constant in these kids’ lives. For some, I am the only adult they see on a daily basis. My job is to teach them to be good human beings. I have to model that, first.”
Asst. Principal Bruce Gilliam calls her a “phenomenal teacher. Kids are pulled in by her enthusiasm, and love math.”
The person who hired her while FRMS principal, current HCPS Chief Human Resources Officer Scott Rhodes, recalled that Ford is a superb instructor and “adds value to the school, outside the classroom.” Rhodes presented the teacher awards.
“She has been one to step up, and help lead” in various matters. Ford helps coach the dance team and organize class trips, manages concessions, keeps athletic scores, and is on the School Improvement Team.
For instance, Ford is leading teacher efforts to beautify classrooms. Last summer, she led the effort to increase aesthetics in bathrooms and to paint inspirational quotes on the walls there.
The school’s inspiring messages in words and images are a source of pride. Principal Melanie Adams and 2018 FRMS teacher of the year Suzy Riddle both recently pointed out to The Tribune displays of hand-drawn artwork that reflect classroom lessons, including for “new strategies.”
When the luncheon was over, Ford returned to FRMS for afternoon teaching. She was greeted with fanfare, in an assembly in the gym. The school chorus serenaded her. East Henderson’s drumline played. Her family, teaching colleagues, and students were there — many showing her posters in her honor.
Ray and Megan Ford’s children are son, Grayson and daughter, Brylee.
Ford is the 33rd annual county teacher of the year. She succeeds Katie McCrary, Rugby Middle English teacher.
Each school’s teacher of the year is gets interviewed by the selection committee, for the overall award. That panel includes a school administrator, school board member, one parent, prior teacher of the year (McCrary). Supt. Caldwell noted the administrator is typically a principal, rotating representation between the four public school districts within the county.
Three teachers of the year who each instruct elementary math spoke with The Tribune, when sitting at the same table at the HCEF HoF banquet. They are Maria Gosnell Gass (fourth grade, Fletcher), Caroline Moser (fifth grade, Atkinson), and Lindsey Skidmore (fifth grade, HES).
Skidmore is in her eighth year at HES. She deploys “project-based learning, to apply basics of real world problem-solving.” An example is figuring the cost of building or producing a product, and “what to cut down on,” she said. Her students actually “create, market and sell products. We give the money (proceeds) to charity.”
Moser, in her sixth year at Atkinson, gets students to use computerized technology — such as to “create a picture using decimals.”
Gass, who also teaches science, is in her third year at Fletcher after teaching for nine years in Etowah. The 1989 West Henderson alum gets her class’ subgroups to explore “collaboration to find a solution” to a common challenge. A practical application of math is “fractional measurements” of cooking recipes. Students learn U.S. customary measures (inches et al) in third grade, then the more worldly metric system.
Even video games provide a lesson, such as about “area and perimeter concepts,” Gass said.
Fletcher principal Jennifer Shelton said Gass is “building relationships with students, with clear expectations. She holds students accountable. Yet she will support and help them.”