Third-grade teacher Allyson Chick walked down a center aisle of the Richland Elementary School cafeteria last Thursday beaming, as if she'd just won an Academy Award. There may have even been a few tears.
Students holding signs that read, "We love you Miss Chick" cheered, as news cameras taped Chick's reaction to the surprise party celebrating her Tennessee Teacher of the Year 2013 Award. This is the first time a public school teacher from Memphis has won the award in more than 30 years, so a surprise party was definitely in order.
All of the faculty's surprise party planning after hours had finally paid off. But for Allyson Chick, the ride is just getting started. — Chris Shaw
Flyer: When did you find out you had won?
Allyson Chick: They announced [last] Tuesday night that I had won. This was a long process. First you had to win for your school, then for your city, and then for your region.
What criteria made you eligible for this award?
You had to have been teaching for five years and have high evaluation scores and proven leadership ability. You have to be involved with community service and be dedicated to teaching. I also had to write 10 essays, get three letters of recommendation, and participate in an interview in Nashville.
You've only been teaching for 11 years. Does the award typically go to teachers with more experience?
I was the youngest out of the nine finalists. I thought that might hurt my chances. But I know in my 11 years of teaching it's possible that I've done more than some teachers have done in 30 years. I think it proves there are good teachers at every level.
I will say that perhaps I have a level of commitment beyond the average teacher. The amount of work that I put into my job for what I want to be able to do in my classroom takes an extensive amount of time. If all I did was just use my textbooks, I wouldn't be able to provide an excellent experience for my kids.
You scored very highly on the new Teacher Effectiveness Initiative put in place by Memphis City Schools.
One of the best things about the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative is it's making teachers become more reflective. It's causing us to look at our practices and consider what we can do to be more effective. That process caused me to be more introspective and look at my teaching practices.
You had the opportunity to move to the next grade with your students, teaching them both second and third grade. How did that experience help you grow as a teacher?
I was originally their second-grade teacher. At the end of the year, I always get a little sad that I have to say goodbye to my kids. It's like breaking wild mustangs. At the end of the year, you have them where you want them, and then you have to send them on to the next grade for another teacher to figure out where they are.
So [Principal] Sharon [McNary] asked me if I wanted to move with them and be their teacher for two years. I want to see how having a child for two years will help them grow academically. I'm hoping their test scores can go through the roof, because I already know their different learning styles.