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Central High School's Byron Booker is Tennessee Teacher of Year 2012

Byron Booker, Central High School
2012  Tennessee Teacher of the Year

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Nashville – Central High School teacher Byron A. Booker was named Tennessee Teacher of the Year Thursday night during the annual Teacher of the Year banquet. Jennifer Magnusson and Ann Johnson are the grand division winners from Middle and West Tennessee respectively.

“Teachers are the most important school-based factor in boosting student achievement,” said Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. “Teaching is a tough job, and one that requires great commitment. I want to congratulate Mr. Booker, Ms. Magnusson and Ms. Johnson on the example of high-quality teaching they’ve set for our state.”

Mr. Booker has spent the last five of his seven years in education teaching English as a Second Language at Knox Central High School. Mr. Booker is known not only for his excellence inside the classroom, but his compassion and hard work in his community. He develops strong relationships with his students, and teaches them about life as he teaches them English. One of his supervisors called him “a dynamo of advocacy for his international students.”

“It is so important that we take the time to recognize our best teachers,” said Barry Olhausen, executive director of instructional leadership for the state department of education. “We have much to learn from them, and so do our students.”

Ms. Magnusson has nearly 20 years of teaching experience, 15 of them in Tennessee. She currently teaches first grade at Pleasant Hill Elementary in Cumberland County. Parents and principals describe her as energetic, kind and knowledgeable. “Mrs. Magnusson works magic in her room,” one parent said.

For 16 years, Ms. Johnson has taught agriculture to students at Munford High School in Tipton County. Her passion is service leadership, and her colleagues praise her as a conscientious professional and tireless worker. “Every student wants to be in Ms. Johnson’s class,” her principal said. “…If ‘Tennessee Teacher of the Year’ were in a dictionary, there should be a picture of Ann Johnson.”

Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year award program and banquet are sponsored by the Niswonger Foundation, a Greenville-based organization that provides student scholarships and resources for school systems in Tennessee. Each of the finalists receives a cash award courtesy of the foundation. For more information about the Niswonger Foundation, visit http://www.niswongerfoundation.org/.

Text of Mr. Booker's Acceptance Speech:

Booker with Jamie Woodson, President and CEO of SCORE
Congratulations to all of the honorees this evening. You are to be commended for what you do and the difference you are making in your schools. Thank you to the Niswonger Foundation and Smart Technologies for your involvement with education in Tennessee and sponsorship of the banquet this evening. To Commissioner Huffman and my friend, Jamie Woodson, president and CEO of SCORE, thank you for being present this evening. Jamie and I go back several years as undergraduate classmates at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. We are honored by your presence and appreciative of your support.

In 1984 I walked into Sherrell Feathers’ freshman English class at University High School in Johnson City, Tennessee. An average student, I was simply one of numerous students who passed through her classroom. Yet, it was the time I spent in her classroom, the personal interest she took in a kid named Booker, which has impacted my life so profoundly. She invested her time, and in doing so, inspired me to maximize my potential. Mrs. Feathers established dual pillars of excellence which I have tried to translate into my career as an educator: high academic expectations and personal accountability. Additionally, my sophomore English teacher and Speech Coach, Mr. Bill Campbell, was responsible for fostering my ability to communicate with across cultural barriers, something that had started through the 4-H Youth Program in my childhood. Twenty-five years later, Mrs. Feathers and Mr. Campbell are still teaching me.

I am honored, honored, to stand before you this evening to accept this recognition as the 2012 Tennessee Teacher of the Year. In doing so, I accept on behalf of my family, Knox Central High School, my community of Knoxville, my profession of teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and most of all, my forty English Language Learners who at this very hour better be completing their compare/ contrast essays for homework tomorrow.

Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre (l) and Central High Principal Danny Trent (r) share the moment with Mr. Booker.
In acknowledgement of the impact you are making on the lives of students and educators across our state, thank you Governor Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam. We in Knoxville are extremely proud of you and the work you are doing for all of Tennessee. The first time I met Dr. Jim McIntyre, director of Knox County Schools, was the day of a tragic shooting at my high school in 2008. Dr. McIntyre’s compassion and commitment to our students and to me personally are forever etched in my mind. Thank you for your model of excellence and vision for education in Knox County. To my administrators and particularly my lead principal, Mr. Danny Trent, thank you for being as Guy Dowd quips, “a molder of dreams.” I am honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as we impact the lives of students. I am privileged to work with a committed faculty at Knox Central High School. Thank you especially to Mr. Danny Sharp and Mrs. Laicee Hatfield who have worked so closely with our ELLs through our ESL-Core Academic co-teaching model. Thank you for your collaboration, but mostly your friendship.

Affirmation of a career in education didn’t follow until after my sophomore year of college. I worked a year in Japan for the LABO International Exchange Foundation where I taught conversational English and recruited families to participate in cross-cultural programs. This experience was a continuation of a cross-cultural exchange program in which my family had participated since my childhood. My parents, H.E. and Shirlene Booker, had nurtured the value of a global education by bringing a slice of the world into our East Tennessee home. I am forever grateful for their sacrifices, their love, and their vision for introducing me to the world of language and culture. Following my undergraduate degree from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, I was fortunate to study with the likes of three outstanding professionals in education, Dr. Sharon Teets, Dr. Mark Brock, and my graduate advisor Dr. Danny Hinson, all of Carson-Newman College. Their mission of education, community service, and academic rigor empowered and equipped me to meet the needs of a 21st century ESL classroom.

"Teaching is a contagion, a gift that keeps on giving. What will you do with your gift? "
- Byron Booker
I offer my final thanks this evening to my wife, Karisa. She opens our home and invites my students and their families to share in our life. She provides meals, and buys clothes, food, and household items. For my students she buys tickets to ice-skating, movie theaters, and sporting events, and gifts for any occasion. She eats at Captain Ds on Merchants Dr just because four of my students work there on the weekends. She shares holidays with these families, never knowing exactly how many internationals I have invited for Thanksgiving Dinner. Karisa’s love for my students and her unwavering support for what I do make this journey possible. My sincere gratitude is the least and yet the most I can offer you.

Through the tapestry of this educational weave, I now search for occasions to pay forward the investment Mrs. Feathers made in a kid named Booker. For you see, teaching is a contagion, a gift that keeps on giving. What will you do with your gift?

Again, thank you for this recognition this evening. I am honored.

Previous Tennessee Teachers of the Year since 1960

(Source: State Department of Education website)

Year Teacher School School System Subject Area
1960 Fayna Kennedy Moore   Franklin County   
1964 James Muskelly   Memphis City   
1965 John Pechnoick   Jackson   
1966 Elizabeth Reed   Giles County   
1967 Dr. Flora Joy   Johnson City   
1968 Maxie Wilson      
1970 Vallie Hunter Putnam Co. Senior High Putnam County English
1971 Edna Ruth White Jennie Bell Elementary Dyersburg City Special Education
1972 Ruby Street Cooley Dyersburg High School Dyersburg City Mathematics
1973 May McGlothin Coalfield Elementary Morgan County Kindergarten
1974 Evelyn Crunk McBroom Stratford High Metro/Nashville Language & Mathematics
1975 Woodrow Wilson      
1976 Donald Wayne Hood Ross M. Robinson Jr. HS Kingsport City American History
1977 Cora R. Cox Andrew Johnson Elem Kingsport City Teacher for autistic children
1978 Delores LeCornu Archie Milan High School Milan City Mathematics
1979 Joan Newby Edgington Watertown High Wilson County English
1980 Irene L. Fox Woodland Elementary Oak Ridge City Music
1981 Dr. Brenda Thompson (Smith) Gulledge Tusculum View Elementary Greeneville City 5th grade Language and Social Studies
1982 Martha Sue Elkins Willow Brook Elementary Oak Ridge City 6th grade
1983 Eleanore M. Zurbruegg Ridgeway Elementary Memphis City 2nd grade
1984 Sandra Hunter Crouch White Co. High White County 9th grade Consumer Homemaking
1985 Susan Ingram Gendrich Bradley Elementary Murfreesboro City English as a Second Language
1986 T. Dan Duggar Ottaway Elementary Greene County Reading and Mathematics
1987 Carol Gardnes Transou Science Hill High Johnson City AP American history
1988 Terry Weeks Central Middle Rutherford County 7th grade Social Studies
1989 Edna Loveday Sevierville Primary Sevierville County Kindergarten
1990 Geraldine Hawes Cleveland High Cleveland City English, Speech and Drama
1991 Joseph S. York Fayette-Ware High Fayette County AP/11th grade English
1992 Delores Doyle Reeves-Rogers Elem Murfreesboro City 2nd grade
1993 James H. Kirk, Jr. Alcoa Middle School Alcoa City 6th grade
1994 Frank Bluestein Germantown High Shelby County Theatre/Communication Arts
1995 Pamela Jean Burish Eakin School Metro/Nashville 3rd grade
1996 Linda L. Cheek Ingleside Elementary Athens City Multiage
1997 Cathy A. Pihl Kate Bond Elementary Shelby County 4th grade
1998 Linda Arms Gilbert Black Fox Elementary Murfreesboro City Music, Band,Chorus
1999 Alana Delise Teague McNairy Central High McNairy County 11th/12th grade English
2000 SuEllen Whitson Indian Trail Middle Johnson City 6th grade
2001 Dorene Harris Lowery Black Fox Elementary Bradley County K-5th grade
2002 Melinda K. Day Lenoir City Elementary Lenoir City 5th grade
2003 Deborah Smith Glencliff Elementary Metro Nashville Kindergarten
2004 Tracy L. Hoilman Unicoi County High Unicoi County Drama, Speech, English
2005 Karen Blooding, NBCT Homer Pittard Campus Rutherford County K-6 Music
2006 Dawn Heterick Werner Fairmount Elementary Bristol City Title I (K-6) Reading/Math
2007 Susanne Frensley Hillsboro High School Metro Nashville Art History
2008 Pamela Rector Red Bank High School Hamilton County English
2009 Luajean Bryan Walker Valley High School Bradley County Mathematics
2010 Patty Kiddy Selmer Elementary School McNairy County 1st grade
2011 Dr. Cheryl Deaton Pigeon Forge Primary Sevier County 4th grade
2012 Byron Booker Central High School Knox County ESL

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