The Lincoln County School system recently announced the recipients their “Teachers of the Year” awards for the 2019-20 school year.
Liz Durham, from Unity Middle School was selected for grades K-4. Highland Rim’s McLean Whitt was honored for grades 4-8 and Tim Bradford was chosen for grades 9-12 at Lincoln County High School.
With ten years in the class room Liz has found her place in life as a career educator in the lower grades. She has taught K-1 for three years at Unity Middle School.
A 2005 graduate of Lincoln County High School, Liz attended Motlow College and earned her Associate of Science degree in 2007. She enrolled in the 2+2 program through Motlow and Tennessee Tech graduating in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science degree - Liz is certified in K-6.
“I love teaching the lower grades,” Liz said. “I love their little personalities and love meeting them where they are and watch them grow through the year. They have a love for anything and everything that you do for them.”
“I remember always wanting to be a teacher,” she added. “I had some amazing teacher while I was in school and I wanted to be just like them and be able to influence others the way they influenced me.”
“COVID-19 hit at one of my favorite times of the year,” Liz continued. “I missed out on so much with my students. They worked hard to get where they were and I missed ending the year with them.”
“I’m blessed to have a family and work within a system and have co-workers to offer never ending support and I appreciate it. They help mold me into the teacher I am today and the teacher I hope to be tomorrow.”
Speaking of her appreciation for Durham, Unity Principal Emily Pierce said, “We are so proud of Mrs. Durham and want to take this opportunity to thank her for the wonderful work she does with our students here at Unity. The dedication and love she has for her students is evident the moment you walk in her classroom. She has a passion for teaching and has recently been selected as an LC K-2 Lead Teacher. We are excited to watch her share her passion with her peers as we go into the new school year.”
McLean found her love for teaching as a college student working at a YMCA in their “Fun Company” after school program. It was there that her heart strings were tugged as she saw positive changes in the kids she worked with. She knew what she had to do and changed her major from dental hygiene to education.
She is a 2006 graduate of Lincoln County High School and a 2011 graduate of MTSU certified in grades 4-8.
“I never expected to be a teacher but it just clicked with me,” Whitt said. “Now nine years later it’s my career, it’s what I feel led to do.”
“Middle-schoolers are finding themselves and want to act tough on the outside,” she continued. “But finding what makes them unique from one another and really getting to know them is the favorite part of what I do. Being able to do it in the community I grew up in makes it even more special. I’m proud to be a produce of Fayetteville City and Lincoln County. I’ve had some great teachers in the past and I just want to give back what I was given.”
“The COVID-19 virus hit everyone hard,” she added. “Personally, I’m a ‘people person’ and it was tough – I need to interact with people and especially my kids. All of our students really took a hit not being able to finish the school year together. No matter what grade you’re in there’s always something special about completing a year with your classmates.”
Whitt continued, “I thank everyone for their support, especially my mom, Clare McCullough. She instilled in me that I can do anything I set my mind to. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people that are constant reminders as to why I became a teacher. I’m so proud to be a Highland Rim Hornet.”
“Ms. Whitt is a hard worker and is one of the most positive people I have ever been around,” Garth Garris, Principal of Highland Rim School said. “She is always smiling and has an infectious attitude. She is an outstanding classroom teacher and she cares about our students at HRS. We are very fortunate to have such a wonderful person as Ms. Whitt here at HRS.”
Tim is a long time product of Lincoln County, teaching Ag mechanics, science, engineering and power and equipment at LCHS since 1994.
He is a 1973 graduate of Central High School, going on to receive his degree in 1977 from MTSU in plant and soil science. After returning to the family farm and milk processing business he made the transition into education, starting as a substitute teacher – he would never leave the classroom. Tim later went on to receive his master’s degree in technical education.
LCHS principal Billy Owens said, “Mr. Bradford brings many positive experiences to our building. He is a calming influence during adverse times. He is loved, trusted, and respected by students, staff, and parents. He is very deserving of the “Teacher of the Year” award and we are proud of him.
“Working as a teacher has been a blessing for me,” Tim said. “The kids and the support I’ve received through the years couldn’t have been better. The Ag kids are some of the best well rounded students in the system. Many are raised on a farm and know what it is to do a day’s work, but they know the benefits that technology can bring to farming as well.”
“This year has been difficult due to COVID-19,” he continued. “No one expected our senior skip day to be the longest in history. The kids have missed out on a lot that comes with wrapping up a school year and we’ve missed the kids. I’ve run a bus route for 20 years and I have to say I’ve missed it. There’s something about being in a routine that I like.”
“The priorities of our school system is safety, well-being, and educational support for all our students,” Tim added. “The central office staff and school administrators have communicated with parents and students to complete the 2019-20 school year under tough circumstances.”
“I definitely don’t feel like I’m the best high school teacher,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to be continuously surrounded with great students and support from people I work with every day as well as my family. I have to say it’s as rewarding to me now as it was when I first started. “