Stacey Donaldson, an English teacher at Murrah High School, is the picture of confidence and calm. Pretty and pulled together, she looks you straight in the eye when she speaks.
It was Irma Griffith, a teacher at Bassfield High School, who helped Donaldson overcome her fears and actually begin to enjoy performing. Griffith enrolled her in pageants that made Donaldson more comfortable with an audience.
"She saw the potential in me, and she put that extra time into me," Donaldson says. She overcame her shyness and chose to study broadcast journalism at the University of Southern Mississippi. After graduating, she worked in news reporting and television marketing for five years before becoming a teacher herself in 1998.
Donaldson first taught at her old high school in Bassfield, Miss. During her tenure there, she earned her National Board Certification, and her master's degree of teaching in secondary education from William Carey University. After six years, she moved to Clinton with her husband and two daughters. She began teaching at Murrah in 2006.
Today, Donaldson is able to do for the current generation of students what Mrs. Griffith did for her, and she has been recognized for her excellence. As she completed her 10th year in the classroom last spring, the Murrah Parent-Teacher Association named her Teacher of the Year for the school. This put her in the running for three more titles: Teacher of the Year for Jackson Public Schools, then for Jackson's 2nd Congressional District, and finally, for the entire state of Mississippi. Donaldson won them all.
"I'm speechless," Donaldson says. "There are so many good teachers."
As Mississippi's Teacher of the Year, Donaldson received a new laptop computer, a color printer and a $5,000 supplement to her salary. Her classroom will be outfitted with new technology tools, and next year she will attend professional-development training sessions in Dallas, New York and at Princeton University. Of all these honors, one particularly thrills her: In April, she will attend a reception with President Barack Obama at the White House, when he will introduce the 2009 National Teacher of the Year.
"I'm excited to be able to be in the company of the first African American president," Donaldson says.
Donaldson engages her students in English through real-life applications, such as writing newspaper articles instead of merely reading from textbooks. She believes that people learn best in an environment of mutual trust and respect.
"You must love children in order to reach them," Donaldson says.
She's gorgeous! And smart, too, apparently. ;-)
Yeah, I wouldn't have missed any days from her class. I probably wouldn't have changed classes either.
Walt, take a cold shower...with ice cubes. LOL