Blount Named Vidalia City Schools Teacher of the Year
The Vidalia City School System announces that its Teacher of the Year is Elissa Blount. An 8-year veteran teacher, Blount has been with the Vidalia City School System for 5 years and is currently a biology and environmental science teacher at Vidalia High School.
Blount, who was selected from a group of four finalists representing each of Vidalia’s schools, said, “This is a huge honor for me, to represent the schools. I love teaching. It’s one of my passions; and, you know, to be able to be recognized by my peers and also by the school system, it’s a complete honor.”
According to Blount, she fell in love with teaching and knew that was what she wanted to do from a young age. “Even as a child, I just fell in love with school and teaching, and from there, being a Vidalia City School alum, having all the amazing teachers I had. From Ms. Jackson in Kindergarten, and on, they have really played a crucial role in sparking that desire to become a teacher. Graduating from high school, and in college, it was one of the passions that I had.”
The mother of three — Grace, 21, Anna, 20; and Helen, 14— Blount is married to Andy Blount, who serves as a Board of Education member. She said they both love the School System. 'We believe in the Vidalia School System. We’ve had two daughters that have already graduated from the System, and our youngest is in high school now. And so, for both of us, we think that education is crucial for every student to have a quality education so they can be successful adults in our community.”
Blount said that she wants to ensure that she “makes an impact” in teaching, “I want to make a difference in each student’s life. It is more than just teaching them biology or environmental science. I want to teach them life skills. I want to teach them how to be successful. We use biology and environmental science as the lens through which we teach these skills that they may have, how to explain things, how to construct arguments, or how to comprehend information and such. I think the biggest thing is to impact students to help them become successful in future endeavors.'
Vidalia Principal Bruce Mulkey said that early in his tenure at VHS, he knew Blount was a star in the system. “Before I began here, we started having conversations about who our teacher leaders in the building were, and she was one of the first names mentioned.”
Mulkey noted that his staff views Elissa as an instructional leader. “I met with her early and I found out very quickly that we saw a lot of the instructional things the same way. Everything that I was told about her is obviously true. She’s very sound and she’s on the cutting edge of instructional skills.”
Mulkey added that two of the most impressive aspects about Blount is her growth mindset and that she is not satisfied to rest on her laurels. “She’s not comfortable just being who she is and what she is doing; she’s always working to get better.”
Vidalia Assistant Superintendent Ginger Morris, who presented Blount with a $1500 award, commented, “According to the panel of outside judges, Mrs. Blount exemplified the best of the best. Her passion, enthusiasm, preparation and high level of student engagement had all the judges wishing she had taught their children.”
Morris said, “For me, it is also wonderful because Mrs. Blount is a former student in the Vidalia City School System, and it’s always a great day when an Indian alumnus returns to continue the legacy of excellence that is Vidalia City Schools.”
Other Teachers of the Year Blount was selected as the District Teacher of the Year from an elite group of awardees at the individual school level.
J.D. Dickerson Primary School Heather Stanley was named the J.D. Dickerson Primary School Teacher of the Year. She has worked as a teacher for 25 years in both pre-kindergarten and art education. Stanley said that she was influenced at a young age to become a teacher. “I was influenced and inspired to lead children in some capacity at an early age by two important teachers in my life, one certified and one noncertified— my amazing parents.
“Initially, I began teaching to fuel two passions, my love for children and my love for the arts. Fast forward 15 years and I began teaching Pre-k out of a desire to cultivate relationships. I yearned to love, teach and influence a group from beginning to end! It has been during these 10 years that I have matured into who I am professionally. It hasn’t always been easy, but education feels good and right at the moment, and I know that I am fulfilling one of God’s purposes for my life!”
Stanley is married to Brian Stanley; the couple has eight children: Breanne, 23, Roper, 23, Braiden, 21, Bryson, 18, Brantley Grace, 17, Scarlett, 16, Parker, 14, and Stone, 13.
Sally D. Meadows Elementary School An eight-year veteran of the school, Jana Palmer, was named the Sally D. Meadows Elementary School Teacher of the Year. Palmer cites “wanting to make a difference” as the reason she became a teacher, “I became a teacher to help make a difference in the lives of children.”
She explained, As a special education teacher, I believe that everyone deserves to have a champion and an advocate to help them pursue their educational goals and dreams. That is what I have strived to be since beginning my journey in education and it is what I will continue to strive for as I continue my educational career.”
Palmer is the daughter of Kendall and Jan Palmer of Vidalia.
J.R. Trippe Middle School Stephanie Wardlaw is this year’s Teacher of the Year award recipient for J. R. Trippe Middle School. Wardlaw said that “the desire to be a direct contributor to the success of the children” is why she became an educator. “I became a teacher so that I could be a direct contributor to the success of the children in my community. I want them to know that they can be successful in their hometown or anywhere they decide to live. God allows me to do it all for the kids,” Wardlaw said.
A native of Fort Valley and a 1989 graduate of Peach County High School, Wardlaw worked as an accountant in the manufacturing and energy industry for approximately 10 years before becoming an educator. She is certified as a middle grade teacher in the areas of math, English as a second language, and social studies. She is also a certified secondary business education teacher for grades 6th -12th.
Wardlaw also has a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Georgia College and State University. She is married to the Rev. Dr. Carl A. Wardlaw, and they have three children, Cambria, 25, Marc 21, and Carleigh,18.
BOE Meeting Recognition Blount and the other finalists will be recognized at the January Vidalia Board of Education meeting where they will be presented with a cash award and plaque honoring their selection.