The Rotary Club of Bristol honored two of Bristol’s most outstanding teachers Tuesday during a virtual and drive-thru celebration at the Bristol Train Station that was broadcast on BTES Cable and Facebook Live.
Teachers were nominated for the 33rd annual Frank W. DeFriece Jr. Teacher Awards from the school systems in Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia, with one final teacher chosen from each system to be the 2020 Rotary Outstanding Teacher, according to a news release. Each school submitted a nomination packet that was then scored by an anonymous panel of nine judges composed of public educators and business representatives, the release states.
April Stipes, a teacher at Fairmount Elementary School in Tennessee, and Karen Branson, a teacher at Stonewall Jackson Elementary School in Virginia, were honored Tuesday. The teachers each received a $3,000 cash award, a $1,000 donation for needed equipment to each teacher’s respective school and a circulating plaque that will be displayed at each school.
Stipes teaches fourth grade math at Fairmount and was nominated by Anita Fink, a former mentor.
“[My daughter] often says Mrs. Stipes is her favorite teacher and the transformation that took place during the time she had Mrs. Stipes as her teacher was astounding,” parent Kyle Evans wrote in a supporting letter. “Her attitude towards school not only improved drastically but her overall attitude and well-being was remarkable as well.”
A colleague said Stipes has high expectations for her students and is proud of their successes.
Branson teaches fourth grade math and social studies at Stonewall Jackson. She was nominated by third grade teacher Hannah Cooper, the release states.
“Mrs. Karen Branson is one of the kindest people you will ever meet,” Cooper wrote. “She is always thinking of others above herself. Her students are always writing ‘thank you’ notes and participating in community outreach. She strives to teach her students the importance of kindness and respect.”
Stonewall Jackson Principal Linda Brittle said Branson “role-models behaviors befitting a master teacher.”
In Tennessee, other nominations included Avoca Elementary teacher Shannon Morey, Anderson Elementary teacher Christine Booher, Haynesfield Elementary teacher Jennifer Hawthorne, Holston View Elementary teacher Tammy Chandler, Tennessee High School teacher Andrea “Michelle” Phillips and Vance Middle School teacher Whitney Maddox.
In Virginia, those nominated were Washington-Lee Elementary teacher Brandon Sturgill, Virginia Middle School teacher Katherine Wallace, Virginia High School teacher Raejean “Rayjie” Harman, Van Pelt Elementary teacher Tonya Neirmans and Highland View Elementary teacher Randall Hodge.
The Rotary Club said each nominee received a $500 cash award.