Congratulations to our Teachers of the Year!

We’re so proud of the work our corps members do every day to illuminate the brilliance of our kids. We’re even more proud when they are recognized for that work. Here we talk to three of our second-years who have been recognized as Teachers of the Year in their respective schools.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
A teacher leaning against a book case in her classroom
Connolly standing in her classroom. Photo taken by Imani Khayyam for the Jackson Free Press.

KC CONNOLLY, SIWELL MIDDLE SCHOOL (ART)

 

What has your second year in the classroom been like? What changes have you made?

I spent my first year getting to know my scholars and allowing them to get to know me.  I didn’t take risks because I wanted my scholars and school to understand my mission.  My school hadn’t had an art educator in 3 years so I started from the beginning, which meant taking time to make them aware that art is not just a “fun” elective.  Creativity builds confidence and I see that in my scholars.  This year they understand how much I care and how much they are capable of doing.  Getting the newspaper in this year and organizing field trips has shown them their voices matter and that Jackson supports them.  My approach to behavior issues has changed completely. I am more myself and I understand their emotions better.  I enjoy kidding around with them and I have found alternative approaches to working around bad moods.  I really care about them and letting them know that has changed my classroom culture for the best.  Keeping things fun and contemporary has also helped connect them to my class.  Understanding what they like had helped so much!

How does it feel to be recognized as Teacher of the Year?

Amazing!  My administration nominated me and my colleagues voted.  This made me feel appreciated and really excited to be on such a supportive team.  I was nervous I wouldn’t receive the title of teacher of the year and when I did I literally hugged everyone in my path.  I explained to my scholars that it was because of them.  Without their drive to create and acceptance of their “crazy New York art teacher” none of this would have been possible.  I thanked them and I think this brought us even closer.  Plus being an elective teacher and recognized really shows how open my building is especially with the stress of exams and the state of [my district]. 

 

 

A teacher posing with a large, golden apple
Shaquika Hughes in the halls of Coahoma County High

SHAQUIKA HUGHES, COAHOMA COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL (ENGLISH)

 

Where do you call home?

I am a native of Chicago, Illinois, but I call North Little Rock, AR home.  Having lived in the southern but mostly in the northern part of the country, I had an idea of what I thought living in Mississippi would be like.  I was wrong.  Moving to Mississippi was difficult because of what I know about the history and society's portrayal of Mississippi for African Americans.  Afraid and unsure, I hesitated accepting the offer for TFA Mississippi because I didn't know what to expect.  However, living in Mississippi has inspired me to fight for education on a larger scale and to continue to build relationships with students.

What would be your one piece of advice for incoming corps members?

My advice for incoming corps members is to think of education as not only knowledge but liberation, power.  Though there will be rough and tough times in this job, every child deserves educational equity.  Each child deserves to be equipped with the tools needed to create their voice, perspective, liberation, and power.

 

 

A teacher kneeling and posing with her elementary student
Cara Marsicano with her student at Williams-Sullivan

CARA MARSICANO, WILLIAMS-SULLIVAN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

 

What was it like to move to Mississippi?

When I first moved to Mississippi, it was a huge transition. I remember being picked up at the airport in Memphis and crying all the way to Delta State! It was just a straight way, with tons of open fields; something I have never seen before. here was no familiarity around me. It was very hard to describe. During my time at institute I used every resource available to learn an understand the culture and history behind Mississippi. There was so much I didn’t know when I accepted my offer from TFA. I grew tremendously not only an educator but emotionally as a person.

When I was placed in Holmes county, I knew that in order to make myself most comfortable I needed to live close to the city of Jackson. Every day, I commute an hour to and from work. Yes, the drive is tedious, but it has helped me adapt best! I still make myself a member within Holmes County, I have coached football, basketball and cheerleading. As well as, attending student’s birthday parties even church functions! Various families have truly made me feel as part of their family and it truly has left an imprint on my heart. 

How does it feel to be recognized as Teacher of the Year?

First off, WOW! I am still in shock that Williams –Sullivan chose me as Teacher of the year. I am so honored to be recognized. At the end of my student teaching, I was giving a plaque that I have on my desk. It states, “One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world. A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning. Success is not a good teacher, failure makes you humble. It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Every day I remind myself that I have a passion for teaching, and I will forever instill a love of learning for my students.