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Chamber will honor teachers, students

Coach Larry Blakeney of Troy University will be the keynote speaker for the 87th Annual Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet tonight at 7 at the Kiwanis Community Center.

During the banquet, the chamber will recognize a student of the year and three outstanding teachers of the year.

Student of the Year — Jessica Smith

Andalusia High School senior Jessica Smith is the student of the year.

Smith is the AHS drum major, is president of the Spanish Club, president of the Usher Club, serves as secretary and treasurer of the Anchor Club, and is copy editor for the Memolusia staff.

She previously has been named to the junior class Top 10, received the Daniel Shakespeare Leadership Award, and is ranked fourth among the 95 members of her senior class.

She is an Andalusia City Ambassador and is active in Christ the King Catholic Church.

Smith plans to pursue a career in international studies with a minor in Spanish and will attend either the University of South Alabama or the University of Alabama. Her long-term career goal is to work for the state department and one day serve as an ambassador.

Elementary School Teacher of the Year — Jessica Ward

Red Level School’s Jessica Ward is the elementary school teacher of the year.

Ward teaches sixth grade at RLS and is responsible for all subjects except science. She has been at RLS since 2004. She works for the Alabama Math and Science Teaching Initiative (AMSTI), training other teachers in sixth grade AMSTI math. At RLS, she sponsors the junior high math team and is the sixth grade 4-H sponsor.

She was recommended for the award by RLS assistant principal Chris Thomasson, fellow teacher Bridget Harper and Ronda Ricks of the Youth Enrichment Services program. She is described as an “organized, energetic and enthusiastic” teacher who has a “tremendous desire to always make sure that each student was reaching his or her full potential.”

She also gives her time to PALS, Community Christmas, Pack-a-backpack and community food drives.

Middle School Teacher of the Year — Paula L. Simpson

Straughn Middle School’s Paula L. Simpson is the middle school teacher of the year.

A 16-year veteran teacher, Simpson currently teaches English at SMS where she works to foster students’ creativity and to incorporate character education into the curriculum.

“Each week my students are prompted to look for other students who exhibit the ‘3 Rs,’ respect, responsibility and resourcefulness,” she wrote. “Each class votes by secret ballot for one of their classmates showing these positive characteristics. I give these students certificates and medals. They also get their pictures taken and placed on the citizenship board.”

She was recommended by SMS principal Cassandra Scott, fellow teacher Ida Sue Cumbie and Victoria P. Anderson. She is described as being “innovative and dynamic in the classroom, infusing her students with tremendous motivation and instilling in them a joy of learning that will serve them throughout life.”

“I have seen her aid without reprimand, correct without disparagement, and teach by example and deed as well as by textbook fact,” Cumbie wrote.

Simpson also serves as an officer in the Covington County Education Association, and has been an AEA-CEA delegate. She is a member of the Kandace Civic and Social Organization, the Oleander 2 Club, the First Baptist Church Youth Department, ADC and the Unified Youth Leaders.

High School Teacher of the Year — Amber McKathan

Florala High School’s Amber McKathan is the high school teacher of the year.

The math teacher said it is rare to hear a student say that math is his or her favorite subject. She hopes to change that for her students.

“Throughout my educational career and my teaching career, my goal has been to help students develop a conceptual understanding of mathematics, build mathematical confidence, and develop an appreciation for mathematics,” she said.

She sponsors the middle school math club and co-sponsors the FHS junior class.

She was recommended by her principal, Donny Powell, fellow teacher Patricia Laird Peoples and Judge Ashley McKathan.

“It is indeed rare to find the type of commitment in the field of education that Mrs. Amber McKathan exhibits,” Powell wrote. “She understands that education is a calling and that the classroom is where she is most at home. Mrs. McKathan is a teacher that has a genuine sense of compassion and caring for her students, while still retaining an uncompromising set of standards and ideals.”

McKathan holds memberships in the local, state and national education associations and is a member of the Alabama Council for Teachers of Mathematics, from which she received a scholarship in 2007. She is active in her church, Pleasant Home Baptist, and PACERS (Program for the Academic and Cultural Enhancement of Rural Schools).