It was a great day to be a Dolphin Tuesday.
When Superintendent Jim Norton, together with his fellow administrators and members of the Gulf County School Board walked in to one classroom at Port St. Joe Elementary to honor the newly selected Teacher of the Year, it was just a short trip down the hall to honor the School-Related Employee of the Year.
Receiving the district’s top teaching honor was first grade teacher Krystal Terry, with paraprofessional Joy Evans named the School Related Employee of the Year.
With Terry’s husband Matt, and their two Dolphin daughters alongside her, and Evans joined by her husband Karl, both were delighted and surprised by the accolade being presented them by the district.
“They were humbled, and it was my honor to be part of that process,” said Norton. “It’s always a very exciting time to be able to recognize somebody. It’s not just about them, they represent their school, and everyone was happy for their friend.”
The four nominees for Gulf District School’s Teacher of the Year were observed by a three-person team of out-of-district administrators, who then selected the district winner based on the observation and a letter of recommendation from a colleague.
The five nominees for School-Related Employee of the Year, along with their immediate supervisors, were interviewed by a three-person committee of retired educators, also independent of the district.
In addition to Terry, the district’s three other nominees included Dawn Grace, who teaches physical science, anatomy and physiology at Port St. Joe High School; Wendy Chafin, who teaches middle school science at Wewahitchka High School; and Hester Peck, who teaches fifth grade math at Wewahitchka Elementary.
In addition to Evans, the nominees for the School Related Employee included Marilyn Causey, food service cashier at Wewahitchka Elementary; Wanda Nixon, secretary at Port St. Joe High School, Jane Wade, paraprofessional at Wewahitchka High School; Ashley Baird, finance clerk, at the district offices; and maintenance Tony Strange, who works in the transportation and maintenance department.
“Teaching comes naturally to Krystal Terry,” said Janice Adkison, the elementary school’s principal designee. “She has a creative knack for keeping her students engaged while meeting all their needs. Mrs. Terry’s students and peers at Port St. Joe Elementary School love her and are so proud to call her our own teacher of the year.”
In her recommendation letter, Donna Howze Thompson wrote that after 15 years working with Terry, she can say that “as the district reading coach, I am in almost every classroom in our school system, (and) hers is the only one that I truly do not want to leave.
“She is the teacher that every family dreams of for their child and no principal wants to lose,” Thompson wrote. “She is not just an exceptional educator, she is also one of those rare people who encourage, mentor, nurture, and serve in all aspects of their life bringing positivity and excellence to everything she does.
“Whether you are years above grade level or a struggling learner, Mrs. Terry will meet you where you are and take you beyond all expectation. After each school wide assessment, she is the first teacher on the phone wanting to dig deeper into her data and plan the best possible instruction for each and every child to reach their greatest potential,” wrote Thompson. “She will never settle for typical growth targets and always strives and achieves the impossible with each child.
“She is the model teacher that I send anyone needing support to observe. She works to create a classroom that shows children how fun learning can be,” Thompson wrote. “She knows how to drill the skills, maintain engaged active learning, and is so positive no one seems to realize how hard they are working. She is the epitome of a high impact teacher and does it with the most nurturing spirit.”
Thompson also noted that Terry is an active volunteer, including serving as a member of the Education Foundation of Gulf County, and helping to organize and distribute thousands of books to support literacy in the schools.
“I have worked with Mrs. Krystal Terry in many educational capacities, however the one that I am most grateful for is when my oldest daughter was assigned to her classroom. You just don't get any luckier!” wrote Thompson. “My Sarah Beth hated school coming into Mrs. Terry's class; the previous year was a negative experience and she left it hating learning and herself.”
Acknowledging that her daughter at the time could be “challenging, disruptive, and so precious,” Thompson said Terry understood how to meet the needs of the gifted and ADHD, and met the challenge.
“The gratitude that our family has for Mrs. Terry just cannot be described in a letter, but may be better illustrated in the tears I shed as writing this, for it truly is an honor,” she wrote. “Mrs. Terry didn't just teach Sarah Beth to love school and learning again. Mrs. Terry didn't just love Sarah until she loved herself again. Mrs. Terry created a classroom that fed all of Sarah Beth's many gifts and unique obsessions, supported her numerous challenges, and before that year was over, Mrs. Terry gave us back Sarah Beth, a brilliant child who once again loved life and herself and learning.
“What is extraordinary about this is to know that what Mrs. Terry did for our daughter is not extraordinary for her at all,” Thompson concluded. “Krystal Terry does that very same thing for every single child that enters her classroom, regardless of their last name, exceptionality, disability, economic status, race, background, or even behavior issue.”
In her letter of recommendation for Evans, Principal Joni Mock wrote that in her more than four years working with her, she has seen her build “a reputation for establishing strong relationships with students and supporting their learning and growth. Ms. Evans is exemplary in managing a daily routine and always willing to help out wherever there is a need. She has proven herself to be reliable, trustworthy, and a team player.”
Evans’ current duties include breakfast duty, and then as assignment in the Kindergarten area where she works with small groups in phonics, sight words, sounds, letter recognition, number recognition, counting, and adding. She collects and records data on each student as well.
In the second semester, Evans will begin the Barton Program with Kindergarteners, and assist during technology time as the students acclimate in to the world of Chromebooks.
“My job is a joy as I watch each student grow and become the best they can be,” Evans wrote.
“Joy Evans is an invaluable asset to Port St. Joe Elementary,” said Adkison. “She juggles many jobs and excels at all of them. Joy is always willing to take on any task with a smile and energy that is contagious, and Port St. Joe Elementary is so fortunate that Joy is a part of our family.”
This article originally appeared on The Star: Terry, Evans honored as district's tops